I have never worked so hard in my life! Those guys at Shillingford really earn their money. It’s been fascinating seeing organic growing in a commercial setting. The work is hard and FAST. The organic system relies heavily on labour to do the work that chemicals do on other farms. I had a relatively gentle introduction my first day, cutting lettuce and other salad, including beautiful borage and nasturtiums. Then some packing for local veg boxes. The boxes are very individual as people can say veg they would rather not have, summer or winter; either because they are not keen on it, or already grow it themselves. Extras are added such as eggs and bread. It was a fascinating process to be a part of and a very enticing product.
People were planting in the afternoon and I volunteered to go too, having no idea what I was letting myself in for. I was warned it was quite a hard job (major understatement) especially as we were planting onion sets which needed separating before they could be put in. I sat on the right hand seat behind the tractor and laboriously placed onions, messing things up quite regularly. There came the shout from the tractor: ‘right, your trial period’s over’. I sat back, thinking I was about to be replaced and suddenly found the tractor was going at double speed. ‘Oh no’ I said, or words to that effect and had to rush into action PDQ.
I planted a fair few onions, beetroot and peas by the time I’d finished and my rows were definitely better by the end. It would take a while to catch up with the skill of my fellow planters but I was improving and absolutely loved it. I have to say that things just got better after that. I got to see the prize hens with heavenly fluffy feathers. It was hilarious the way they all follow you around. And collecting eggs from right under them. I felt so mean while they were actually sitting on them, they didn’t really seem to mind though. Quite an experience.
The highlight I have to say, was being allowed to drive the tractor. It has been my lifetime’s ambition and I was so thrilled. Driving on tarmac was ok but in the field it was just crazy. It went all over the place and nearly through the chicken fence. Luckily I jammed on the brakes just in time. A miss is as good as a mile…her ..hum…
The wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for their vocation shone through from every member of the team. They loved the environment, had pride in their work and supported each other to make the whole system come together. I thoroughly enjoyed the farm and meeting all who work on it. I’m deliberating now how I can manage to volunteer at Shillingford and also at the community project next door, and whether I could cope with a double amount of vegetables if I can’t decide who’s I like best!
Many many thanks to Martin and his team. It’s been a pleasure to meet you all and hopefully I’ll be allowed back one day.