Harriet Bell is Community Resilience (Food & Farming) Manager, helping Dartington to explore new ways to feed ourselves sustainably.
Previously, she worked at West Town Farm, an organic mixed farm enterprise on the outskirts of Exeter, and 10:10, an organisation that encourages schools and businesses to cut carbon emissions. More blogs from Harriet
Though the typical face of farming in the developed world is a masculine one there were, in 2014, 564 million women working in agriculture around the world, making up about 43% of the global agricultural workforce.
Here at Dartington women are well represented amongst the community of growers and producers on the estate and to mark International Women’s Day we thought we’d introduce them to you all…
Based at Old School Farm and in March 2014 started renovation of the walled garden on the estate. Flower Project produces seasonal, Soil Association accredited cut flowers for sale as bouquets, buckets, by subscription and for special events.
“I came to Dartington to study Sustainable Horticulture at Schumacher College in association with Duchy college. From those tentative beginnings and from tending a cascade of sweet peas at School Farm, my love for flowers flourished under the guidance of Nick Gooderham, the then market gardener who has sadly since passed away.
Most of my fellow Schumacher students were much keener on food production, so it soon became a class mantra that contrary ‘Amy likes flowers’! But then I always did, even as a child. In between childhood times in the garden and now I had training in textile design which shaped my love of colour and form. A developing knowledge of organic growing and environmental concerns now goes hand in hand with my delight in English cut flowers and love of the English landscape. I am doing my best to promote seasonal, local cut flowers.”
Jolly Farm is a meat CSA utilizing fields around Totnes and the Dartington Estate. If you want to know where your meat comes from, have a say in how it is grown and get involved in being responsible for your food choices then they love to give you the opportunity to be involved in growing lamb, beef and pork. You can play a hands on part in feeding and butchering the animals or you can just subscribe to one of their meat boxes and have divine roasting joints and succulent steaks delivered to you direct.
“I moved to Devon 6 years ago to help my dad on his small-holding and holiday cottage business. After living in Hong Kong, where you are about as far from food production as you can get, I was craving seasons, growing and a connection with my food. I started growing veg and fruit and keeping ducks and chickens. Soon the problem of too many drakes and cockerels turned me from vegetarian to conscious meat eater. Since then I have kept pigs and, with my partner Oliver, sheep and cattle, as well as helping neighbours out on their dairy farms.
I started farming with Oliver on his father’s Dartmoor farm and fell in love with the gorgeous Galloway cattle and brave Lleyn sheep. I have learnt so much about what goes into growing the meat we eat and the milk we drink, it’s been a steep learning curve and one that has tested my beliefs and shaped my morals. I learn something from the animals every day.
Two years ago I set up Jolly Farm CSA, I really wanted other people to get the opportunity to grow their own meat and by doing so understand what it takes to produce meat. I hope that this connection with their food will affect the choices they make about the meat they buy. A more conscientious meat eater makes for better animal welfare, higher environmental standards and greater support of local producers.
We started with a pig growing project, which, has proved very popular. Members sign up for a meat share and then help to look after and make decisions about the care of the pigs until slaughter day. We then come together to butcher the animals and share out the meat. I also help Oliver to run “Little Bo People”: https://www.facebook.com/lambshare which is a similar Lamb Share project based on Castle Meadow in Totnes and on Staple Field in Dartington. This year we are opening up our beef herd to public involvement.
I have so much still to learn and we are constantly developing our farm as we learn more. I’m passionate about sharing the journey.”
School Farm CSA aims to provide Totnes, Dartington and the wider community with access to high quality, ecological and local food. Members of their box scheme are provided with a full box of vegetables from July through to January each year, as well as invited to join volunteer days, events and courses. All of their produce is grown on site, using ‘no dig’, organic growing techniques.
“For the past ten years I’ve worked in environmental education, and on environmental and community projects, mostly on issues relating to food. I grew up on a small holding in Wales. Armed with a passion for the outdoors and a deep care for the planet, I left the small-holding to live and work at the Centre for Alternative Technology, where I had a spell as an environmental workshop facilitator.
After completing a degree in Environmental Geography and International Development, I spent a short time as a Forest School Leader, before working as the South West Coordinator of the Mapping Local Food Webs Project, researching local food systems. I then spent two years studying sustainable horticulture at Schumacher College and was fortunate to move straight from studying into working alongside an incredible grower and mentor, Nick Gooderham, who founded School Farm.
For the past four years I’ve worked at School Farm as a grower and teacher. Alongside this I have worked as a freelance gardener, a tutor on the Schumacher Level 2 and 3 sustainable horticulture courses, an environmental workshop facilitator, and a session leader on Totnes’ Gardening for Health project. I am one of the team establishing, coordinating and ‘growing’ the Community Supported Agriculture scheme here at School Farm, and see CSA as an important part of bringing about a fairer food system.”
“First I was a hitchiking traveller zigzagging across Canada, then I was a square rigged sailor jumping from boat to boat in search of interesting places. Now I’m a farmer in a foreign land who loves learning about vegetables.
I started learning about growing organic vegetables 5 years ago through a 2 year Soil Association apprenticeship on a large mixed farm. Since finishing I’ve been working on CSA projects. I never wanted to be a lone farmer growing crops in a field for supermarkets. I wanted to share all the great things I’ve been learning about vegetables with other people, so CSA’s were a natural progression for me.
After four years in the UK, I’m ready to say that I plan to stay. Looking back at the climate in Canada I can’t imagine growing veg there in the extremes of hot and cold. Though the UK hasn’t been too easy in the last 4 years itself. I’ve had two winters of heavy snow, one summer of drought, and one summer of deluge. It’s been a difficult time to start growing veg, but it’s also put a fine point on why this work is important as the climate continues to challenge us. When I think of the next 30 years of growing food I think about being resilient and growing in extremes and am determined to keep learning new techniques to make this possible, and I’m excited to do this at School Farm CSA”
“I have worked with growing food and environmental education for over 10 years, much inspired by my mums garden, a feral child hood in a walled garden and holidays spent volunteering on organic farms. I started off at the research and information end of the organic movement with my first job at Garden Organic (then HDRA) in the International Programme. Looking for more direct experience of the soil I started to get my hands dirty working as a Forest School leader and environmental playworker at the Centre for Alternative Technology, as well as free-lance gardening. Another shift brought me to the Level 3 Horticulture course at Schumacher, which I finished in July 2012 and since then I have been working with the lovely team at School Farm, helping to set up the Community Supported Agriculture scheme, where my productivity is measured by how muddy my face is at the end of the day. Alongside my days at School Farm I also work with Devon County Council on their Composting in Schools project.”
“In 2008 I left a job as a magazine editor to work on range of food-growing projects across the world, from agro-tourism in Malawi to the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia. Over time it became clear that the ‘problems’ of the developing world were in fact a direct result of the Western model of consumption. And in India I came across the work of the Institute for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), which helped me decide to return to the UK to grow food.
Since that decision I’ve worked on an organic market garden in Wales, for a farm co-operative and as freelance gardener at some beautiful sites including the Sharpham Estate, completed a Level 3 Sustainable Horticulture course at Schumacher College and taught the Level 2 practicals at Schumacher for an interim period. I’ve also developed my interest in therapeutic horticulture, recently working on a new enterprise engaging people with learning difficulties.
To me Community Supported Agriculture is the model for a fairer food system…and it’s great fun! I’ve also come full circle as, alongside various other projects, I now also work for ISEC.”
Based at School Farm this enterprise produces salad crops and vegetables for wholesale and direct sale alongside potted plants for home growing.
“The humble tomato plant takes me back to the hot and hazy summers of the 70s where my childhood days were spent outside immersed in nature, whilst dad tended his plants in the greenhouse and mum cooked home-grown food on the kitchen range.
When my son was born in 1998, I just knew that I had to provide him with the same understanding that I had about where food comes from. I was determined that he would learn the very basic art of taking food from ‘seed to plate’ without the added complications of modern day consumerism.
The satisfaction I gained from seeing my home crops blossom inspired a hunger to learn more about the approaches to sustainable farming and different cultivation methods.
In 2009 I met Nick Godderham who later mentored me through the process of organic farming. Many days were spent on the land, tending the crops and getting our hands dirty.
I eventually went on to develop my own small scale businesses producing organic seasonal salad crops, supplying nearby restaurants and shops. Each new day taking me back to my grass roots, playing in the mud and soaking up the sun.”
Schumacher College is part of the Dartington Hall Trust and has an international reputation for its holistic and systems approach to sustainability. At the college they have been teaching sustainable horticulture for four years and have just taken on the management of a new field to create and demonstrate a variety of agroforestry approaches. As well as being a teaching resource the college’s growing space provides much of the produce used by its own kitchens.
“I graduated in Medical Sciences at Cambridge University in 1990 and spent over ten years working in the NHS mostly within the field of mental health. I also studied theology, looking at religion and mental health. 15 years ago I started gardening and was soon completely hooked. I was simply bowled over by plants and how endlessly fascinating they are. So I studied and worked at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for three years and then taught Horticulture at Hadlow College in Kent. Before coming to Schumacher I taught part time whilst running my own local garden maintenance business. I love working at the College with its emphasis on exploring and developing respectful relationships to each other, the planet and the food that sustains us.”