“Throughout the whole vegetable, sensible, and rational world, whatever makes progress towards maturity, as soon as it has passed that point, begins to verge towards decay”.
(Robert Blair. A poet from East Lothian, born 1699)
There’s a cheery thought for a winter’s day. We’re born, reach the pinnacle of our achievements and full maturity then we start to decay! It’s a point that’s hard to miss when you’re in a farm, the sky is gray and all the leaves are brown (I feel a song coming on) and the best of the seasons veg has been sold leaving decaying weeds, stems and brown earth.
The passing of another growing season and some recent events at the farm have made me stop and reflect on progress and progression. Typical farm life means that we make great steps forward each growing season but we are then forced to stop and gather our selves through the winter for another year. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Maybe the real work is done in winter when we fix our tunnels, build up the soil and add infrastructure and new plans only for that effort to be sapped away as we busy ourselves with the crops in spring, summer and autumn? It all takes me back to the Cyrenians old logo (remember the red seagull?) which was chosen at the time of it’s creation to reflect the life journey of an imaginary service user of the charity. The red line wiggled it’s way up from the ground through a few curves and deviations to reach a heady height somewhere at or near the top of the hierarchy of needs.
One of the activities we have embarked on over the past couple of years is an informal relationship with the Growing Youth project – part of Wester Hailes Edible Estates (WHEE). WHEE create opportunities for people to get involved with gardening throughout Wester Hailes. The Growing Youth project helps some long term unemployed people to get out and about and learn new skills. We help them along by having the group come to the farm on Tuesdays throughout the growing season which gives their participants a chance to see what commercial scale growing is like compared to the allotment scale growing they practice in the city. When the partnership was created we hoped that this simple progression in scale would give some of the gang a taste for growing and may see them move on to jobs elsewhere. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Happily, since this partnership was created three young people from the group have been given jobs with Cyrenians with help from funding via the Community Jobs Scotland Scheme – another employability project managed by SCVO. This an unexpected but very welcome success. The collaboration between our organisations has given these young people a chance to progress, in each case from a difficult background or through periods of adversity. Each one of these young people has helped themselves out of a sticky situation by using determination and grit, a feat more accurately described by the following quote than the one at the top of the page:
So what is the point of all this I hear you thinking? Well, the Cyrenians Farm has had it’s own wiggly path through time from it’s inception in 1972. Buildings going up, buildings going down, three economic recessions, periods of time when we had to close altogether and various incidents with the neighbours but the journey has stayed true and now it’s future continues to look bright as we follow the path to the sunny horizon! There is, of course, much left to do but we can realistically expect this young social enterprise to be considered a success now and even more so in the future. Whether that is in creating jobs, helping people to find jobs, training people, building the success of small growing projects who partner with our Bag Scheme, improving food sovereignty (check my previous blogs if you want to know what that is), working in partnerships with large organisations, duplicating the project and growing, selling, cooking, sharing and eating good local food with as many people as possible. Happily, despite being in it’s forties, the farm, like me, still feels young and this enterprise is nowhere near it’s maturity and is not tending towards decay as gloomily predicted by Robert Blair.
Now that I’ve written this I can get on with planning the new Keder houses, tea plantation, barn roof repairs, sowing and planting for next year, accredited training scheme, walled garden planting, more sales, more placements….. perhaps the key to staying young and continuous progression is staying busy!