Sarah moved to Bristol in September because her husband is studying here. She loves animals and the outdoors and needed something to keep her moving and get outside to combat the winter blues. A new friend recommended the farm to her, so she came and had a look around and then applied to be a volunteer as everyone was so friendly.
Sarah now volunteers for two mornings a week. She loves coming to the farm, volunteering has really helped her through the winter in a new city. The best bit is having fun with the other volunteers and meeting new people. She also really loves the goats and chickens.
The worst bit is when it pours with rain and she has forgotten her waterproof trousers.
Sarah says that volunteering at the farm has definitley improved her life and got her out of the house and exercising . She would recommend volunteering as a great way of meeting new people.
It has been a pretty busy Summer here at the farm, with lots going on and something for everyone!
The tremendous benefits to our wellbeing of being outside in nature and spending time with people, has now been well established. Our regular Walking Group provides the opportunity to experience both these things. Our friendly group meets every Wednesday afternoon, and we walk around the surrounding area, observing the changing seasons and sharing memories and stories. There is always a welcome cuppa and biscuit at the end!
Talking Tables has been a very successful project, funded by LinkAge Bristol, where people can get together and share the joy of cooking and eating together. We have run this several times, and ran some great sessions during the summer, using produce grown on the farm.
We hosted some great free family activities over the summer holidays. APE Project came and ran their popular woodland scamble; we were Nature Detectives exploring the farm and woodland; Scrapstore came almost every week with their playpod to fire up everyone’s imaginations; there was den building and smoothie making. We also had a rather wet Family Fun Day with stalwart, hardy people turning up in their wellies and raincoats to have their faces painted like an Iron Age warrior and enjoy a delicious farm sausage.
The usual daily and seasonal farm jobs and tasks were also carried out including shearing the sheep in the early summer. This prevents the sheep from overheating as the weather warms up. Bill from St Werburgs and Windmill Hill City farm came and sheared the sheep by hand.
As well as all of those fabulous activities we have also had a lot of Corporate Volunteering – where companies come and volunteer for the day. These days are vital to the farm as this is when we have the opportunity to replace the fencing – a continous job a bit like painting the Forth Bridge! Many companies have supported the farm in this way over the summer including Burges Salmon, North Families, Airbus, WYG, MBDA Systems, AECOM, Allianz, Wessex Water and Accenture. Corporate volunteers also have the opportunity to take part in other activities such as foraging and the farm experience.
And last but by no means least our gardens have been taken care of and made beautiful by the Friday Gardening Club and Herbs for Health group. They have weeded, sown, planted and watered all summer, helping the farm look lovely and providing vegetables and herbs for sale.
Rowan has been volunteering at the farm for 2 years. She had some free time and wanted to volunteer, but it was important to her to do something physical, healthy and outside. She used to visit with her children when they were younger, and so thought that the farm would be ideal.
Rowan thinks the best part about volunteering here is is meeting new people and being outside in the fresh air.
The worst bit was during a cold spell in the winter and her trousers froze!
Volunteering has improved Rowan’s physical and mental wellbeing a lot. She says that it is really nice to have a connection to a place and the people in it. She also values the opportunity to have learnt not to be frightened of animals and learn where food comes from. Rowan and her family also really enjoyed looking after the cockerel on the right of the picture. He was the only chick that hatched from a batch of eggs the farm was hatching. So Rowan took him home and reared him with her boys. When he was older he was introduced to our general flock of hens. Now he is a handsom strapping cockerel.
Rowan’s boys are members of the 26th Bristol Scouts and Beavers who have taken part in lots of fundraising for the farm by doing activities such as cake sales. They raised the money to buy one of our current breeding sows and got to name her – Spotty.
Rowan’s boys love coming down in the holidays, and they say the best bit is helping out, mucking out and of course, the chickens!
Bristol born and
bred, Dave has lived most of his life in Lawrence Weston half a mile from the
farm. He started volunteering at the
farm some four years ago after losing his job at Bristol Zoo, because he wanted
to keep active. He’d been told about the
farm at the local Jobshare office so he walked round, introduced himself and
joined the Gardening Club, which meets every Friday. His first job, he recalls, was helping build
the greenhouse where a lot of our potting work goes on.
Since then Dave
has proved to be a willing and enthusiastic participant. The activities of the gardening Club change
according to the passing seasons and Dave doesn’t mind what job he’s asked to
do. In fact he says he has no time for
people who want to pick and choose. His
father used to grow vegetables in the back garden and Dave liked helping
him. He says he likes growing veg and
loves working in the greenhouse planting seeds, potting on and tending the
plants. But Dave is an all-rounder; he
enjoys the animals, working in the woodland clearing weeds and brambles,
coppicing, pruning, fencing and weaving hurdles, planting trees and splitting
He has also completed two courses at the farm; Woodland Skills and Herbs For Health. Most of all perhaps, Dave enjoys the camaraderie of the Gardening Club. He has become a valued and popular member always ready for a laugh and joke. He says he would miss working at the farm if for any reason he had to stop and I dare say the farm would miss him just as much.
Emma discovered the farm after Googling ‘farms to volunteer at’. She initially came along to the Woodland Skills course and then stayed on as a regular volunteer.
Emma and her husband would like to set up a regenerative agricultural enterprise, such as pastured poultry, which is where a mobile laying flock follows livestock on a rotation around the land. This builds up soil and absorbs a lot of carbon from the atmosphere – both actions are vital to fight climate change and soil loss.
However, first she wanted to get lots of hands on practical experience of livestock and farming. She loves the variety of animals that she gets to work with, and says that there’s so much you’d never know without first hand experience – such as there’s a right and wrong way to slope a nest box roof! (If it slopes the wrong way, chicken poo will go in the nest box).
Emma really enjoys being outside and with people who are interested in farming. Her favourite aspect of volunteering is the variety of jobs and animals, and the camaraderie with the other volunteers. She really values how much time Ian spends with the volunteers and the knowledge he shares with them. She dislikes – nothing!
In the future Emma would also like to learn about bee keeping.
Chelsea and Moya have been volunteering with us since last autumn. They are studying Animal Care Level 2 at SGS College, and come to the farm as their work experience.
They both think that the best thing about volunteering is that they get hands on exprerince with the animals, not just reading about it or watching videos. They feel that it has helped them with their course.
Their favourite jobs are anything to do with the baby animals, and were very pleased to have been here when two of the baby goats were born.
Lee has been volunteering with us since May of this year. He first came to the farm to take part in the Introduction to Volunteering Course, that we run a couple of times a year. Lee was referred by Headway, an organisation based in Frenchay that supports people with brain injuries.
Lee also started coming along to our Walking Group on Wednesdays, he then started volunteering three days a week. Lee is always here bright and early no matter what the weather is like, as he really enjoys getting the animals out in the morning. Lee loves to keep busy and meeting people so volunteering on the farm is very beneficial for him. Working outdoors, with the animals and nature, and being part of a team has greatly improved his wellbeing. Lee says that he ‘loves helping people enjoy their free time.’ Volunteering at the farm has given his life some structure and focus, and the opportunity to meet lots of different people, including those with different needs than him.
Lee’s plans for the future include getting a part time job.
As the year turns, we’re now well and truly in the time of high summer and harvest. This year’s heat and lack of rain means the gardens are very dry so the volunteers have been doing a great deal of watering. Squashes are just starting to ripen and will be on sale from next week. We have potted herbs for sale, sown and grown by the Herbs for Health group. The fruit trees and bushes are fruiting early this year so don’t miss out! Ask staff if you’d like to pick your own.
The two new piglets are now going outside 4 days a week day into the cool forest pig pen; they are enjoying seeing all the visitors.
The new chicken run is a great success there is lots of interest and food for the chickens and squashes and meadow plants growing naturally.
We have a set aside the pig pen near the ducks this year, and it has attracted frogs and toads. This is due to the wild plants such as Mugwort and Goosefoot growing there, creating damp conditions underneath and this has helped them get through this dry time.
Bumble and Honey bees are loving the artichokes and sunflowers.
Honey will be on sale from September.
We have goat meat, sausages and bacon for sale
Looking forward to seeing you all on the 22nd August for the celebration.
Last week we had four Yr10 students here to do their work experience.
The students are from different schools, but had all chosen to come to the farm. Kian likes animals and had worked with horses before, Henial likes animals and is local to the farm. Emma had worked with chickens before and wanted more hands on experience as did Meg.
They all loved everything about working on the farm, being outdoors and working with the animals, and said that they would definitely love to come back. They all felt that volunteering on the farm had improved their confidence and given them practical skills for other areas of their lives.
Their favourite part was the goats. Kian and Henial’s worst part was digging hole, Meg and Emma’s worst part was carrying brambles.
This week Sunday Farm Hands got really experimental with the herbs growing on the farm. Here on of them tells us all about it in their own words……
First we went to the garden to try some herbs. We smelt them and tasted them. I really liked the sage, it was hard and chewy with a flavour I really liked. The herbs we tried were (clockwise from the top) parsley, rosemary, fennel, sage, marjoram and chives. After that we washed them and put them in cups with some beaten egg and popped them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make mini omelettes . We then put them in two bowls and ate them all up! Sage was still a favourite, but I also really liked the marjoram. Then we took some cuttings from the herbs and took them to the polytunnel and put them in plant pots, to make new plants. We also took some plants home for cooking . After that I filled up some watering cans and watered some plants near the polytunnel. At the end we went to put the guinea pigs and chickens away. I carried a chicken and a guinea pig into the barn.