Written by the Beautiful Josh Salmon
“wait, what?”, “how does that work?” and “ honestly I have absolutely no idea” are three phrases that I’ve found myself saying more and more since I started at the farm in January alongside Will. A lot has certainly changed in a few short months, for one, the garlic I helped plant on my first day has all been harvested and either put into our veg boxes or sold to the locals in Wetherden where we are based. It is great to see but mainly I wanted to talk about what else has grown, and not just the plants.
Although I can always remember having a somewhat interest in nature and the natural world, previously my only experience of farming, if you can even call it that, revolved around a tiny veg patch in my parent’s garden and my mother telling me the best ways for doing this and that and such and such techniques to pick, plant, prune and so on. All while I stared off into the distance looking at the pretty birds instead of listening of course which I have started to regret.
Having a very limited amount of experience means I am not always the best choice of knowledge when it comes to deciding when or what to pick, plant and prune or pretty much anything else for that matter
But what it does mean is that there has been a gap of knowledge in my head that I am now constantly trying to fill. Whether that is by diving into books or rabbit holes of information online, leaning heavily on Matt and Will when discussing plans and ideas moving forward while leaching off them for every nugget of wisdom I can get, even the odd comment here and there sometimes inspires me to dig deeper into a subject I wouldn’t have normally given a second thought about.
It also does not help that we are three different people with three different levels of experience which can create a surprising amount of miscommunication, confusion and blank stares.
Rather luckily I suppose, the farm has helped to grow a willingness in me to learn and a hunger for a better understanding of the complex natural systems around us (can’t ignore the hunger for the tasty veg we produce too hehe). Doing my own research in my down time has almost become a new hobby for me even if what I am learning may be embarrassingly obvious to some. Having started to foster a grander appreciation for the little creatures that you have to crawl through the grass to find, even the ones that bite when you get too close. Walking past the rows of veg popping out of the ground is like being back on a playground again, just this time I don’t mind getting covered in dirt and compost.
Before working on the farm, I did not have a clue about what I would now consider simple and concepts such as green manure leys, stale beds and managing soil concentrations of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Or even simpler things such as hoverflies being prolific pollinators, I just thought their darting movement was cool!
Although some of what I have been learning whether that is on the job or elsewhere does not always have a use, being able to recognise a new (to me) plant or critter is satisfying, better yet is seeing the direct results of the effort we have put in.
I have certainly been learning lots and there is so, so much more left to learn and then implement, doing all of it could easily take a good few lifetimes. Whether that is in regard to wildlife (pests included), resource management or about getting more out of the food we eat, It is very much a case of picking and choosing the best parts we come across and seeing how we can use it to benefit us and those around us. Or just bumbling about until we get something right.
Who knows, maybe one day someone else might say “uh what?” to me instead of me standing there confused. That is probably a long way off.