One of my favourite discoveries since moving to Bristol is The Community Farm, an organic farm in a beautiful setting near Chew Magna lake. The farm is owned by the local community and is reliant on its volunteers, so as soon as I found out about it I knew I’d like to get involved somehow.
We’ve been to 3 community farmer days this year and loved it so much that I’ve decided to write a quick post to share our experiences, outline what to expect when you volunteer, and explain why it’s an amazing way to spend your spare time!
Here are a few reasons why I recommend volunteering at a community farm:
- You’re doing something useful – the farm are so grateful of any help and wouldn’t be able to run without volunteers. If you find you’ve got nothing planned on a weekend (very rare, I know…), then why not get out there and do something that’s both fulfilling and helpful? The farm also have a fleet of weekday volunteers if you’re not available on weekends.
- Mental health – volunteering is pretty selfless, and the main aim (for me anyway), is to help others. However, as with most things the outlay is reciprocated with benefits, in this case in its droves. Like most people in modern society, I have a relatively stressful life which means I do occasionally suffer from anxiety; getting outdoors helps me to rejuvenate and put things into perspective.
- It’s fun! – It’s honestly great fun; you’ll meet some lovely people from all walks of life and the atmosphere is welcoming and inclusive. My partner has come along with me to two of the days and he’s thoroughly enjoyed it too; it’s a really great thing to do both alone or with your partner/friends!
- Sustainability – The Community Farm is organic and so helps to protect the environment whilst growing delicious food. Working here is hugely educational for learning more about where food comes from, how agriculture works, and how labour intensive it is to produce the food we so often take for granted.
Here’s a video of another volunteer explaining why she loves helping out at The Community Farm.
What’s a typical day like at the community farm?
The only consistent thing is lunch-time; the seasonality of farming means there are different jobs throughout the year, and Ian (the farmer who runs the event) makes sure we do a wide variety of jobs to keep it exciting.
Day 1 – June 2018
Today was all about planting; the group planted over 1000 red onions as well as runner beans and some herbs such as coriander. It was our first ever visit so we didn’t know exactly what to expect but everyone was very welcoming and it was great to get to know the other volunteers over a steaming bowl of homemade soup. After all the hard work we visited the on-site shop and bought some organic veggies for our dinner; yum!
Day 2 – August 2018
After a few (very) busy months we finally made it back onto the farm, and coincidentally we were lucky enough to spend the day harvesting the very same onions we planted back in June! This is such a satisfying job and we loved seeing the fruits of our labour. We then spent some time pulling some ‘fat hen’, a fast growing weed which can suppress the growth of the valuable vegetables. After another lovely lunch, we picked some tomatoes and salad onions before bunching them up ready to be sold in organic boxes or at their shops.
Day 3 – September 2018
Today was probably the most autumnal day of my life: harvesting tonnes of beautiful squash. We picked 3 varieties (festival, red kuri, and golden nugget), all of which I hadn’t heard of before. We were even allowed to take a squash home to taste it for ourselves; yum!
Do I need to have previous experience?
Absolutely not. At our community farm Ian begins the day giving a rundown of the itinerary in the farms’ yurt. Everyone is also super friendly and happy to explain the logistics of the task at hand.
Furthermore, if you don’t drive that also isn’t a problem; once you sign up for a day you’ll receive an email on how to get a lift with another volunteer.
How do I get involved?
If you’d like to work at the Community Farm near Bristol, you can sign up here. They also host plenty of other events such as foraging workshops and scything days which also look great!
Not in the Bristol area?
No problem! Here is a nationwide list of community farms, most of which appear to have a volunteering section on their websites.