On the farm again: a good day's work
In our daily lives, most of us don't think about how lucky we are. We think we're having a tough day if we run out of milk or we miss the bus or the kids are whiny. But there are people in our own community for whom life is much tougher - which is why, for a handful of days in the year, the Freshleaf team are released from our usual website-based endeavours and set loose to help out with some local projects.
Which is why last week we found ourselves on site at Longmead Community Farm to see where we could lend a hand. For anyone not familiar with Community Farming, there are a number of community farms around Dorset, and their aim is to help disadvantaged people by providing a safe, healthy and positive environment where they can learn new skills and build or rebuild relationships. Some receive some funding from local authorities to work with particular individuals, but most are reliant on volunteers and donations to keep their gates open.
The Freshleaf team arrived bright and early at Longmead, where our hosts Ken and Denise gave us a quick tour of the 8 acre property with its resident goats, pigs, sheep, chickens and ducks. They explained how Longmead works with disadvantaged families mainly on a weekend residential basis, whereby families come and pitch in with everything around the farm, from tending to the animals to preparing meals, with guided support on things like parenting, healthy living, budgeting and communication skills provided by experienced family support workers.
"For a variety of reasons, many families have difficulties coping with the demands of life in a complex modern society with its emphasis on selfish and materialistic values. Some of these reasons include poor education and a lack of social or practical life skills. We are convinced that by providing families with an opportunity to work as groups in an agricultural environment they will discover new interests and values together with a self-confidence and fellowship that has perhaps been missing in their lives."
Then we were set our tasks for the day: weeding the extensive kitchen garden, and clearing a section of woodland which is used by visiting families, often being the furthest that some young people have ever been from their normal urban environments. Armed with saws and wheelbarrows, we were to remove the deadwood and help with pruning some of the trees to create usable pathways through the wood.
Clearing some woodland seems like such a small thing - and in many ways it is - but it helps places like Longmead to continue to provide support to families in crisis.