A guide to get­ting help

Many small­hold­ers take on vol­un­teers and find them ex­tremely use­ful. The ex­pe­ri­ence can also be hugely ben­e­fi­cial for the vol­un­teers them­selves. Kim Stod­dart in­ves­ti­gates

Country Smallholding - - Front Page -

Have you ever thought about all the projects you could un­der­take if only you had the time, or even bet­ter, a lit­tle help? I know I have. I’ve got a whop­ping great list of things I’d like to get done (and try out) but in re­al­ity never seem to be able to get round to, which is why I’ve in­creas­ingly been think­ing about get­ting in some vol­un­teers to help.

It was speak­ing to fel­low small­hold­ers and or­ganic veg pro­duc­ers Ali­cia Miller and Nathan Richards re­cently that re­ally sold me on the idea. Like me, they moved from cos­mopoli­tan lives in a city and have found work­ing with vol­un­teers to be a hugely en­er­gis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. As well as be­ing ex­tremely help­ful to their op­er­a­tion, it also re­minds them why they are do­ing what they do in the first place and their chil­dren love hang­ing out with all the vis­i­tors.

So I de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate the dif­fer­ent op­tions out there ...

How to find vol­un­teers

Find­ing peo­ple will­ing to help is ac­tu­ally a lot eas­ier than you might oth­er­wise think.

The day-to-day life­style and ac­tiv­i­ties that we take for granted are of in­creas­ing in­ter­est to peo­ple from around the world. Grow­ing your own food and rear­ing an­i­mals and every­thing else that goes with it – th­ese are skills that oth­ers would re­ally like to learn.

There are ac­tu­ally many dif­fer­ent ways to go about it and it all de­pends on how much help you need and whether you have (or can or­gan­ise) space to house vol­un­teers through­out the year. If you have at least one spare room or static car­a­van, along with food and a warm wel­come in ex­change for their as­sis­tance, then there are many op­tions on of­fer.

The three main or­gan­i­sa­tions that can help you find vol­un­teers in this way are WWoof, Work­away and HelpX. They each work in a very sim­i­lar way: con­nect­ing prospec­tive hosts with in­di­vid­u­als, friends and fam­i­lies from around the world who are look­ing for work­ing hol­i­days in the UK. Each or­gan­i­sa­tion rec­om­mends that prospec­tive hosts ex­pect as­sis­tance for about five hours a day in this sys­tem of ex­change.

Find what works for you

You don’t even nec­es­sar­ily need to have spare ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able. At Lam­mas, a pi­o­neer­ing eco-vil­lage in Pem­brokeshire, they have a con­stant stream of helpers keen to learn more about the project. With lim­ited ac­com­mo­da­tion on site, a lot of th­ese bring a tent or camper­van and pitch up nearby. The many fam­i­lies at the project ad­ver­tise for as­sis­tance via their web­site and any­one in­ter­ested reg­is­ters on­line to re­ceive a monthly news­let­ter which out­lines all of the vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties com­ing up.

If, how­ever, you would just pre­fer to have some help on projects on spe­cific days, then you’ll need to be a bit more proac­tive, but it’s also rel­a­tively easy to or­gan­ise. It all de­pends what help you are look­ing for and what you are pre­pared to of­fer. We don’t have any spare ac­com­mo­da­tion and, as I spend a lot of time writ­ing, hav­ing peo­ple stay for weeks on end wouldn’t work. So the best op­tion for me will be a weekly vol­un­teer day with a gar­den­ing fo­cus. I’ve seen it done very suc­cess­fully at com­mu­nity al­lot­ments be­fore, like the ex­cel­lent Moulsec­oomb For­est gar­den in Brighton. There, lo­cals who would like to learn to grow their own pro­vide as­sis­tance in ex­change for a free lunch and maybe some veg­eta­bles to take home if there are any go­ing spare.

This will be a very nice way to dip my

toe into a rather large world of prospec­tive vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and see where it takes me. I’ll spread the word lo­cally and via my web­site. So­cial me­dia is also ideal for this pur­pose.

Vol­un­teers can be a huge help on any small­hold­ing

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