Category Archives: Volunteering

March 2024 – Volunteering

Stats for March: 409 hours of volunteering by 32 volunteers over 16 sessions; 1 new volunteer; 1 work experience placement.
Stats for 2024: 1267 hours, 44 active volunteers, 8 new volunteers, 2 work experience placements.

This month we were looking ahead to our Spring Celebration (Sat 23rd), making preparations and tidying up. We had a big load of wood chippings arrive just in time to finish off some of the muddy areas. Spring bulbs were in full swing by now.

The celebration was wonderful, with a cake, crafts and day-old chicks which were especially appreciated.

Music and yoyo tricks were provided by friends David and Guy (one of which appeared as Albert the Lion).

This month we were also running a £10k matched funded Crowdfunder, which hit the target in the last week. It was amazing to receive generous support from so many members of the farm community.

On Wed 27th we had 27 pupils from Oakwood primary for a tour. They were looking especially at birds so we talked about the wild and the working birds on the farm. It was pouring with rain as they walked here from the school – they bravely and keenly persisted with their tour, and the rain eased off.

Cari Stewart, our volunteer animal lead, took volunteers onto her land, improving drainage and maintaining things for the ponies and lambs. We created a gap in the hedge by Chickens 1 so that visitors can look through to see the lambs in their shelter.

We rationalized our goose and chicken housing to release houses for the second batch of ducks/chicks, which arrived in time for the open day. We have five chicks and 3 ducks in this batch. The chick with a bad leg from the first batch is now with second batch, getting around ok. The chick and ducking from batch 1 are going out into a day hutch each day now.

Pots of perennials like currants, gooseberries, strawberries and day lilies were smartened up for the shop. Our chilli seedlings were all eaten – the slugs beat us again. We set up 15 potato sacks and planted our first early potatoes. Our first direct sow of carrots, parsnips and turnips was hampered by the prevalent rain. On 20th March at 9.30pm we picked about 100 snails off bed 1, mostly making for the newly planted radish seedlings. Many of these snails were small.

The oriental leaves and over-wintered lettuce in the polytunnel began to really produce and give us 10 bags at a picking. Delicious!

We continued the routine tasks of processing logs, clearing sand from the spring and irrigation system refurbishing the compost yard and building up the hot boxes. We started getting horse manure from the ponies next door.

We had a lot of rain to contend with, and the month ended very wet and extremely windy. We closed the shop early on Thursday 28th because the wind was lifting water butt lids and other objects and throwing them around the farm.

By the end of the month the apple blossom was showing. And of course the ducks were still working hard…

February 2024 – Volunteering

Stats for February: 398 hours of volunteering by 32 volunteers, over 17 sessions; 3 new volunteers and 1 work experience placement.
Stats for 2024: 865 hours, 39 active volunteers, 7 new volunteers, 1 work experience placement.

February was still cold and wet, but the first cherry plum blossom appeared on the 1st! A sure sign spring is coming.

The barn saw a lot of changes this month as the shop was finally moved to the cabins with a big effort at the start of the month. Our first day trading in the cabins was Tue 6th Feb.

Immediately we reorganised the barn to create a designated storage and prep area for the shop and leave the rest of it clear. This was just in time to host the February edition of Southampton Clothes Swap on 10th. After that we were able to reinstall the Pre-Loved Shed in the barn. And then at the end of the month our first batch of chicks and ducklings arrived, hatched by our new animal care lead, Cari Stewart.

Produce from the land was still coming in small quantities – leeks and a few salad leaves. The watercress was going strong still and we unearthed some lovely Jerusalem Artichokes.

Visiting or serving in the shop was a miserable experience in the rain as both doors opened directly to the outside and it was a wet walk from one cabin to the other. At the end of the month we managed to fit a marquee between the two cabins. We had to cut some poles down to fit the last section, but with a bit of jiggling it worked and we have a rainproof space from door to door. A great relief. We weighed it down with our homemade sandbags, using coffee sacks and the sand that now flows from our spring. Thankfully the whole structure was tested by heavy winds a few days later and we were relieved to discover it stood firm.

The raspberries that had been growing under the apples and pears (bed 25) were transplanted to make a new bed near the outdoor kitchen and we mulched under the trees with a large wool carpet, hoping to keep it much tidier than in previous years. We also enlarged the rhubarb bed by the outdoor kitchen.

We created a new path around the back of the outdoor kitchen, giving a lovely way to go around the perimeter of the farm. We levelled the heap of compost beside PT3 (from the cucumber beds last year, just before they became the wildflower bank). The team saved about a dozen sacks of compost for use in potting-on later in the year.

Around Valentine’s day the frogs converged on the pond for their annual spawning – a busy time! We had to work hard to keep the ducks away – several times they broke through our fences, but eventually we seem to have won.

We had a surplus of garlic which was determined to grow and not be eaten, so Gordon created a new garlic bed on the bank at the top of the farm.

In the polytunnel, tomatoes sown in January were ready for repotting.

Routine work continued: refurbishing the compost bays and filling the hot boxes; pruning fruit trees and currants.

And Sonny Boy our cat kept his cool, dozing in the tool shed, favouring our basket of string.

January 2024 – Volunteering

Stats: 460 hours of volunteering by 31 volunteers over 17 sessions.
4 new volunteers joined us.

Tuesday 2 January was cold and wet yet we had a full house of volunteers, keen to get on with the winter jobs. Christmas festivities over, we had a busy programme of activity from the very beginning.

We have been going as fast as we can to get our shop moved into the two shipping containers (cabins) that have been with us since 11 December. On new year’s day the farm manager was digging up the concrete outside the barn for the cables to carry electricity to the cabins. On 2nd January we were laying the cables whilst Henry (a local builder and volunteer) didn’t have any work so came and spent all day designing and fitting the shelves for the new shop using wood reclaimed from pallets. Over the next few weekends he also built our beautiful veg display shelves.

Out on the land we moved on from Christmas, shredding Christmas trees returned by customers and taking down our extensive collection of Christmas lights. The farm was bare again, but still producing leeks, watercress, Jerusalem artichokes and some salad greens for the shop. The ducks loved getting out and about and always seemed to find rewards for their persistent foraging.

We sowed onions and planted out some elephant garlic we had been given.

We also sliced the last green luobo winter radish, and kept the top to grow to flower and seeds:

Our winter maintenance jobs were underway – harvesting compost from last year’s hotboxes in the polytunnel and beginning the cycle again, filling them with compostable materials. In the compost yard we did the next turn on various batches of compost and began a serious refurbishment of the compost bays. This was possible because we had been given a quantity of large pallets saved by our neighbour from a hotel refurbishment in town. We also made a new culvert below the blackcurrant patch, as the surface water in that area was becoming a problem.

We began pruning currants and gooseberries and our apples and pears. This was early for us – it’s good to be organised.

Our water supply comes from a spring which has started giving out a lot of fine sand, especially after heavy rain. We have added to our maintenance schedule the clearing of the spring box and irrigation lines of sand.

In a new job for us, we started cleaning bricks from the old shed on the farmhouse that had blown down in the autumn. We hope to sell them to a reclaim business.

On rainy days we spent a lot of time stapling 10% off vouchers on shop leaflets, ready to encourage new customers for Jan, Feb and March. These were delivered by friends and volunteers, including the very enthusiastic guys from Good Gym:

Mid-month it was very cold at -5C in the barn on 18th January. Yet in this time our duck and chicken eggs were fertile and the first batch went off with Cari, our volunteer animal lead, for incubation.

In the background the farm manager was busy with budgeting and funding applications, taking time out from practical work. To facilitate this Liz took on an extra day of leading the volunteers and Eddie took Tuesday afternoons in the shop.

Coffee Shop Volunteer

We have a new opportunity for volunteering on the farm.

Our shop continues to grow – we now have an espresso machine for making delicious coffees and we offer cakes and teas too.

On Saturdays we need a volunteer to help Liz, our wonderful Saturday shop assistant.

One day we hope this will be a paid position, but for now we can’t afford it, so instead we have created a great work experience opportunity, like a little job.

We will support you to gain experience and confidence. You will get training in making coffee making and the relevant food hygiene training. After a few months we can provide you with a reference that would help you get a job in a coffee shop at a later stage.

We aim to set up a rota of volunteers, asking you to commit to a 3-hour session (morning or afternoon) once or twice per month.

Full details can be downloaded here and are all below as well.

If you would like to become one of our team, please contact us for an application form.

  • Title: Coffee Shop Volunteer
  • Minimum Age: 16
  • Hours: 3 hours per session. We are looking to cover the slots 0930-1230 and 1330-1630
  • Reports to: Shop Manager/Farm Manager


Our shop assistant has an ever-increasing range of tasks to perform and with the addition of an espresso machine for take away hot drinks, we need to provide extra support on Saturdays, our busiest day.

The purpose of the shop volunteer role is to make and serve hot drinks and to provide assistance to the shop assistant, helping to keep the shop running efficiently during opening hours and reducing waiting times for customers.

PRIMARY Responsibilities

  • Taking turns on a rota and being reliable.
  • Communicating promptly with Farm Manager when not available for a session.
  • Following food hygiene procedures, monitoring fridge temperatures
  • Making and serving coffee and other hot drinks
  • Keeping the outdoor seating area clean and tidy

OTHER Responsibilities

Helping the shop assistant by:

Assisting customers with the refill stations:

  • detergent and soap refills
  • milk refills

Keeping the shop well-stocked:

  • making up bags of flour
  • replenishing veg from the fridges
  • replenishing other produce like eggs, bottles, jars, tins

Keeping the shop tidy:

  • general awareness of what the shop looks like and keeping the shelves tidy
  • wiping down surfaces, cleaning the fridges, sweeping the floor
  • breaking up cardboard boxes

Welcoming and showing visitors round the farm:

  • dispensing chicken feed and showing where the chickens are
  • explaining safety precautions

If you would like to become one of our team, please contact us for an application form.

News – January 2018

A happy new year to all our friends! 2018 is looking both exciting and a little daunting for us as a community…

…Yes daunting because our dear Adam Brown has got a new job, working as head gardener at the amazing Minstead Study Centre. He will be responsible for growing all the food needed to feed the hungry children staying at the centre. He started at the beginning of January and HE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED! We are planning a farewell party at the start of February (details to follow). We’re hiring a room, cooking some food and probably playing some games!

The shop and volunteering
We are now only open on Wednesday and Saturday, due to the loss of Adam. But we hope to be open on Fridays again in the early summer. We have a plentiful supply of chicken eggs. We also have spring and summer bulbs in pots – the crocus are looking very cheery already!
More about the shop…
More about volunteering…

Our ‘vegetable year’
We learned a great deal last year about growing vegetables and we are looking to put it into practice as the need to become financially self-sustaining increases. Our aim is to have vegetables for sale in every month of the year, from March 2018 through to March 2019 and beyond. We are also very excited to be growing a considerable amount of vegetables to supply our friends at Bitterne Box Company throughout the year.

Activity on the farm
The main activity in January is planning. The major work here is planning for our ‘year of vegetables‘, but we are also planning the construction of our sawdust toilets and the associated composting system. We are applying for funding towards getting mains electricity to the barn so we can put in proper lighting and have power for running tools and maybe a bit of heating under my desk!!

We are working hard to finish top dressing all our beds with our home-made compost, and the chickens are helping by going over the beds, having a good scratch around to eat up remaining plants and weed seeds and eat all the slug eggs they can find.

Over the last year we have received £2150 in donations and sadly we had to pay £430 tax on this. Seems a bit daft, so we are also beginning to investigate the possibility of setting up a charity alongside the co-operative to support the farm and to receive donations.

Looking back on December
There is a report on what we achieved in December here.


Volunteer with us and you could be: weeding, picking fruit, cutting spinach or chard, sowing seeds, planting out baby plants, weeding, harvesting coriander, upcycling old timber into posts for our chicken enclosures, digging new duck ponds, skimming duckweed off the pond, wheel barrowing compost onto beds, watering things, pruning hedges, (and so the list goes on!!)

We start at 1000 and run until 1600. You can join for all or part of the session. It’s best for us if you arrive either at 1000 or 1330, but we are flexible!!

We currently have volunteering spaces on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

If you need gardening gloves we can supply them.

 Lunch on the terrace!

If you are still here at 1600 we will send you home then!

You will need to dress for the weather, and wear suitable things on your feet – it might be wet and muddy underfoot. And when it is hot, it is really hot – we are a bit of sun trap.

Who can volunteer?
No prior experience or knowledge is needed. If you can get about outdoors and are fairly mobile you will be able to join in with what we are doing. Children are welcome to join in if they bring a responsible adult with them.

We have safeguarding arrangements in place for teenagers aged 14-17 to volunteer on Saturdays unaccompanied, which we set up on a case by case basis.

Please contact us to arrange a visit so you can some and see us to talk further.

Spring 2016 Saturday Sessions

Announcing Saturday sessions for volunteers in February and March!

Our Saturdays start at 0930 and run until 1230. We have a cuppa mid morning and then if you want to stay for our “bring and share” lunch at 1230 that is encouraged! We send everyone home and lock up after lunch.

These are the definite dates and the probable activities we will be doing:

  • Sat 13 Feb – sorting seeds and putting them in envelopes ready for the Seed Swap on Sunday 21 Feb; preparing the geese lawn
  • Sat 27 Feb – creating our geese paddock and sowing a lawn for them; digging swales.
  • Sat 12 Mar – preparing our 3 sisters bed, digging swales and ponds.

Our main activities on the land at the moment are…

  • Taking control of the whole site by:
    1) setting up growing areas covered with wood chip to keep the weeds down and
    2) digging ponds and connecting them with our swales (special kind of ditches) to manage the water and make lots of beautiful water habitatswoodchip team
  • Setting up the polytunnel for producing many wonderful plants from seed.
    We will be putting most effort into perennial plants (ones which don’t grow and die all inone year, but last many years). Adam tells me that perennials stay in the polytunnel longer than annuals, so we will have lots of interesting plants to nurture in there this year.polytunnel workers
  • Preparing for the arrival of Sid the gander and his 6 geese in March. (we haven’t got a picture of Sid yet – this image comes from wikimedia.)360px-Geese_Fruggo01We are making a fox proof area for the geese and seeding one of the areas the pigs excavated in the autumn to make a luscious lawn for them as grass is their main food.
    We have been given Sid by a lady who is closing down her small holding. If anyone else fancies some pet geese – great for keeping the lawn cut – please let us know and we can put you in touch.

190 hours of work by volunteers in one month

Looking over the log book we keep each day on the farm, we see that May and June were a bit breath-taking. So many significant changes and new things. What do you think of all this?

Summary of May

  • A record 190.5 hours of work done by volunteers on the farm. We’ve had 51 different people come to help since April 2014. We also had our first Saturday volunteering session.
  • Give and Gain Day 15 May. Organised by Business in the Community, we had 25 volunteers for the day from a company called Morgan Sindall. This was a day of big, big changes:
    • the greenhouse frame became a polytunnel
    • we gained a terrace for growing sweetcorn
    • 21 tonnes of rubble was put into 3 skipspolytunnel cover on
  • Chances4Change Food Festival: We were funded to provided a tomato-planting activity at this event in the centre of Southampton. Fifty people passed by our stall and planted up a seedling to take home and grow their own tomatoes.
  • Open Morning – Bank Holiday 25 May: Six of our members hosted an open morning and many local people came to see how we’re getting on.
    • 40 guests signed the book – lots of positive comments!
    • 3 people asked for eggs when available
    • 3 people offered to volunteer
    • we made a profit of £45 on plant sales.

Summary of June

  • Our first three pigs were slaughtered and meat distributed.
  • Irrigation – we installed a water tank at the top of the hill, which is filled by an electric pump. This provides a steady daytime flow of water into swale 1 which overflows via a small stream and goes on into swale 2.
  • 31 tomato plants installed in polytunnel
  • 120 sweet corn plants are now out on the land
  • “3 sisters” bed created (sweet corn, beans and squash growing together)
  • we made the doors for the polytunnel and fitted them
  • we began harvesting mange toute, peas and strawberries
  • our area for growing cabbages, cauliflower and Brussels was prepared in the area above swale 1 and a tunnel for netting constructed over it
  • we had 115 hours of voluntary farm help and 157 hours of volunteer farm management.
  • we received some funding so that our managers can be paid 3.5 hours per week for the next 80 weeks for permaculture design of the farm.

Looking ahead, we have more Saturday volunteer sessions on August 1st and 15th, and another open morning on Bank Holiday Monday, 31st August.

So, after such a productive start to the summer we really want to say thanks for your involvement and support! And don’t forget the members meeting, Tuesday July 21st 7.30pm at the farm.

Volunteer Mornings

We regularly set aside Saturday mornings so people can come and get involved at the farm.

Dates for autumn 2015: November 7.

Starting at 1000 and ending at 1230, we will be working on whatever needs doing on the farm. This could be big new things like clearing ground for a new animal enclosure, digging a pond or more regular things like cleaning out the chickens, planting/harvesting fruit and vegetables or keeping paths clear.

Children are welcome if accompanied by a responsible adult.

Here are a few of our volunteers in action:volunteers


What to bring

We will provide tools, and gloves – you need to bring wellies or outdoor shoes. If it’s hot a hat is recommended. We will stop for breaks – it’s important to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings and also to enjoy one another’s company.

It would be good to know if you are coming – please call on 023 8218 2716, message us on facebook or email us.

Dig a swale

Swale from north

Swale #1 – a flat ditch with trees that drink the rain it collects.

Many friends have offered to come and help. Here is your chance.

Come and help us make SWALE #2:

  • dig a ditch,
  • rake a mound of soil,
  • plant trees,
  • sow seeds and
  • spread straw

This is a great chance to learn a bit about permaculture in action, meet some new people and have fun.

Lunch provided!!

Small print: This is not an open day – we’re not really set up for that yet. This is a by-arrangement only kind of thing, so please get in contact before Saturday to book your place.

  • Saturday May 17th, 10am to 4pm. (I know, NEXT Saturday…)
  • You don’t have to stay all day – you could just do 10am until lunch.
  • Please email, facebook or phone us to book your place.
  • Lunch provided.
  • No charge.
  • How to find us.