Daniel Key: Why become a grower?
My first job as a seasonal grower was at the Community Farm, just south of Bristol, and I absolutely loved it. I wanted to share my experience, so that anyone interested in a career in growing gets an idea of why it’s so fun and you should just go for it! I’m also encourage you to join the Future Growers programme, an inspiring series of farm visits and specialist seminars that gives you a unique perspective on organic horticulture.
The perks of the job
It’s great working on a farm because you get loads of free food! I got a large veg box every week as part of my contract, and helped myself to our graded out produce (or ‘Veg on the Edge’). Eating locally grown organic food completely changes your mood and gives you loads of energy, which is awesome.
If you’re the kind of person who is interested in producing good organic food, chances are you’ve notice the world is in a pretty dark place right now. Inevitably, this has an impact upon our mental health. Gardening, working with animals and generally getting outdoors and getting your hands in the soil is proven to make you happy and improve your mental health. We should all be getting outdoors often, but if you work as a farm labourer all summer, you’ll definitely get your vitamin D fix!
3. Enjoying the fruits of your labour
I get a great feeling of satisfaction from looking back on a new planted polytunnel that had been full of weeds at the beginning of the day. Seeing the physical impact you have every day is immensely satisfying, especially compared to office jobs, where tasks are often email, meeting and desk-based.
It makes such a difference working with people who are on the same page as you. When a team just clicks, you can speak freely and people understand your passions, interests, politics, and struggles. At the Community Farm I worked alongside volunteers who were so happy to be on our wonderful farm, with picturesque views across the Chew Valley Lake. We even had a crew of us that ran events and partied at the Valleyfest festival, held on the farm. This feeling of camaraderie and community is incredibly invigorating, as well as life-affirming.
Right livelihood and purposeful work are so important to me, and I’m sure if you’ve read this far then they’ll be important to you. I’m passionate about organic veg growing because of climate change. In response to this, I’ve committed myself to not contributing to the destruction in the world, and instead work towards building a new system through my paid work. It’s a great feeling to be building a new food system and regenerating our soil, and this sense of purpose and wider vision can help you through the tough times.
So what are you waiting for?
Check out the Soil Association’s Organic Marketplace now for seasonal grower jobs. The busiest growing season in the UK tends to be April to October, so farms will start looking for staff over the next two months.
Also, make sure you apply to join the Soil Association’s Future Growers programme. The course is a great way to become inspired about organic food growing. You will meet leading pioneers and innovators, such as Iain Tolhurst, co-author of Growing Green and expert on green manures. You’ll find out new growing methods that you can try out on your own project. And crucially, you’ll befriend other growers and become part of a network that supports one another and shares knowledge about jobs, opportunities and new ideas.