Norwich Farmshare Blog: Women who farm

Working co-operatively with local agroecological small scale farmers and growers.

We've recently noticed that a lot of our volunteers are women and we wanted to celebrate this fact. While our farm welcomes people of all ages, genders, backgrounds and experience the fact that so many women and girls feel comfortable, confident, content and at home on the farm is something we're really proud of. We've recently been on the Anna Perrott show, Saturday morning 10-2, where I and some of our volunteers, Laura, Annelise and Donna were interviewed. Some of our female volunteers have also written some reflections of their experience volunteering at Norwich FarmShare and how being a woman relates to growing food and agriculture in general. Here are their contributions. It's such a privilege to work with so many enthusiastic, friendly, committed people, especially woman. We've been asking ourselves why we have so many more female volunteers than male. We don't really have an explanation to this question but we celebrate the open, nurturing, courageous, high stamina, boundary pushing, community minded, fun, curious, artistic and supportive energy that our female volunteers bring to the farm. I hope you enjoy these contributions,

Joel, Farm Manager

By Tania Donnachie

Recipe for Happiness (or Being a Norwich Farmshare Volunteer)

Take 3-4 hours of fresh air in two acres of lovely plants. Add some exercise planting, weeding, hoeing, harvesting or pushing a wheelbarrow. Mix in some teamwork. Then stir in lots of fun chat and snacks at coffee break and lunchtimes. Add a great bunch of vegetables to take home and Voila! You have a recipe for happiness!

By Natasha Day

I had been meaning to volunteer for NFS for a while but it wasn’t until lockdown that like so many other people I was suddenly free from the entire commitments of my diary. Initially I was nervous, I thought that having zero knowledge about plant life, and usually managing to kill or wither any green stuff that came near me, that I would not be very good at it. What use could a city girl be?

I ‘fessed up my first time saying I knew next to nothing, but that I was very happy to be directed in every way to help out as best I could. Jack and Joel could not have been more helpful or more welcoming. They have huge patience so that every task is explained making it extremely easy to feel useful and included from day one. My favourite day is harvest day which I try to attend every week. I love seeing the wide variety of successfully grown organic vegetables and listen to the pearls of wisdom from Jack and Joel about growing food. Coffee break has become a community food share as we bring home made cake, breads and quiche to taste, often with some of the food grown on the farm in it.

Like many places where people come together with shared values the farm attracts a fun and interesting bunch of people from all walks of life and I soon began to feel very comfortable and a strong sense of community for this relaxed and yet industrious organization. New people are seamlessly absorbed into the egalitarian group and everyone strives together to collectively bring the harvest in and prepare it for going to the packers at the hub who prepare the shares for the members.

I haven’t really thought much about my gender as being relevant or not to volunteering on the farm until Joel mentioned it for this blog. I’m guessing women who farm is something not above the radar nationally either. In which case it needs to be. I have always loved using my body physically and from the amount of women Norwich Farm share attracts I am not alone in this. I notice I have got stronger, and have surprised myself by the hoeing, raking, carrying, digging, lifting that I can do. I love touching the earth, I love sustaining life. I love being part of something so honest.

The huge sense of good health I feel from being outside among seasonally shifting vegetation and insect life and contributing to the harvesting and management of the land, gives a purpose and structure to my week and indeed my life. As an artist, I love taking weekly photographs of what is happening on the farm, from crop growth to the natural cycle of new shoots and decaying plant matter, to share on social media to help promote the farm. It has given me a real sense of empowerment, satisfaction and confidence and I am so very grateful for that.

Volunteer at the farm.

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