I volunteer at Countryways CIC a care farm based in Great Missenden, delivering a fortnightly Countrymen Club. I also represent the care farm at events e.g. schools, social prescriber & mental health practitioner conferences and support Farm Helpers who come to the farm for alternative education and farm interventions when required. I also help with communications, website, feedback processes, events etc.
On the farm, we have an ancient orchard and a re-homed poly tunnel which I hope to apply the principles of the Gardeniser course to, in order that our existing community of service users and other new people in our local area can enjoy the benefits of growing together, learning about and making a positive impact through improved soil health and biodiversity, alternative protein sources with a mushroom focus, and diversity of edible plants for healthy living.
For the Countrymen, I run a termly programme of activities and themes linked to the seasons, farming calendar and any specialist areas that the men request or enjoy. Activities have to be varied to meet a wide range of need and ability. The sessions run rain or shine and we are mostly outdoors; for example we have planted and tended a new hedgerow, extended our orchard with new fruit stock traditionally found in our area, planted bulbs, sunflower growing competition, harvested apples to make apple crumble and chutneys, foraged hedgerows, made bird feed, bottle-fed lambs, created collages from naturally occurring materials around the farm, built bird and bat boxes and ploughed a furrow with a mini plough. I source guest speakers, for example a beekeeper recently joined us, bringing beeswax, honey to taste and oodles of interesting facts.
Recent community events I helped with range from large to small. I ran a small ‘Good to Grow’ community event in the spring, supported the team effort to deliver Open Farm Sunday in June and helped coordinate a Farm afternoon for Ukrainian families.
I love working with people in the outdoors and with the land and environment. I see first hand how meaningful farm-related jobs in the fresh air, are; providing people with a sense of purpose and an opportunity to be involved, and being active and participating helps their physical and mental health. Some are isolated, and the farm offers the chance to socialize and feel connected with others, nature and the animals. Helping care for the animals and the land for is empowering and helps peoples wellbeing, being in the moment, and having responsibility for something else when usually the focus of care is on them. Having space and time, connecting with the seasons and nature allows people to express themselves and feel part of something good.