How long have you been gardening?
I have been growing food all my life, but started professionally in 2003, so I have nearly 17 years of growing experience.
I grew up near Glastonbury in Somerset growing vegetables. My Father was a keen allotment grower and my uncle ran a small holding which was regularly open to the public. One of my earliest memories are watering cabbages on my dad’s allotment. While studying Geography at Durham University I spent some of my summer break volunteering on a 100 acre organic farm in Somerset with 7 acres of vegetables and loved it so much I went back every holiday to work until I finished my studies in 2003. I then moved to the farm to work for a year and a half. This was followed by time spent volunteering on other farms in Europe.
In 2008 I set up and ran a 1 acre market garden in Glastonbury for 4 years, which supplied organic fruit and vegetables to the town. I then moved to Wales to set up and run a Community Supported Agriculture project in a walled garden on the Old Lands Estate whilst working for Garden Organic.
Working at Garden Organic (formerly the HDRA) which is the national charity for organic gardening set up by Lawrence Hills. He is seen by many as the father of organic gardening in the UK and was key to making it more mainstream. I worked in the visitor gardens where we showcased many different organic gardening styles and techniques, which gave me a deep understanding of the skills and knowledge required to garden organically. gardenorganic.org.uk
Living in Glastonbury, I became close friends with Patrick Whitefield, a pioneer of Permaculture in the UK. As well as working alongside him in his orchard and on the market garden I ran I also did some teaching with him on his permaculture courses. Watch a short film on youtube.com
Before coming to Schumacher College I created a vegetable garden in the walled garden on the Old Lands estate in Monmouthshire. I ran the garden entirely under no-dig principles and hosted a number of gardening courses including those hosted by Charles Dowding, the well-known no-dig gardener. old-lands.co.uk
What brought you to Schumacher? Why’s it so special?
It is such a privilege to work on the Dartington Estate at Schumacher College. The Estate has a long history of innovation in food growing and ideas. We are so lucky to be part of the network of enterprises and groups that are on and surrounding the Estate. I love the fact that food growing is central to the ethos of the College. All students play a part in growing, cooking and of course eating the food we grow here. In return we get to sample all of their ideas, foods and music brought with them from around the World.
Why’s Devon such a great place to be a gardener?
The South Hams area is an incredible concentration of food growers ranging from gardens and small holdings right up to Riverford. The network of support and ideas is a very rare thing in such a beautiful rural setting.
Further reading: Colum’s new online course
Colum is course facilitator for a brilliant new online sustainable growing course aimed at teaching the fundamentals of growing vegetables in gardens and allotments. Find out more here >