Volunteer Profile: Julie Cooper

Continuing our volunteer stories series, please enjoy Julie’s which was featured in the Spring 2022 edition of the Grazer:

Last month I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Julie and her dog, Noel, (might have slowed up the interview slightly due to some rather lovely doggie cuddles!). Julie lives very local to Fordhall, and first heard about the farm’s plight when it hit the news, then later she popped down to buy some meat from the little freezer in the Old Dairy as it was back then. Julie is a farmer’s daughter and has an agricultural background, and did I mention her dog, she has the world’s cutest Border Collie!!

Outdoor education

Julie met Helen Howes a member of our outdoor education team when walking in the woods at Fordhall, Helen was running a session with children and it sparked Julie’s interest. Sometime later they would begin working together on the farm, hosting school visits and having great fun introducing children to the farm, its animals and the special environment they live in.

After taking a little break from work for a while Julie came back to the farm to work with the Care Farm and occasionally the Youth Project, enjoying undertaking different roles again within the special setting of Fordhall and sharing her love for the great outdoors and nature with the attendees.

Back as a volunteer

More recently we’ve been thrilled to have Julie back on the farm, this time as a volunteer. Julie first joined a session in November 2021 and has enjoyed being a regular member of the Farm Friday’s crew since then. I loved the simplicity of Julie’s answer when I asked, what drew her back to the farm, “It’s brilliant here, I wanted to be an active part of Fordhall again and volunteering suited my life as it is now. You’re doing a useful job contributing, you’re outdoors so the there’s an immediate connection with nature and it’s often physical work which means the feel-good hormones from being active make you feel great”. However, Julie firmly believes the absolutely best thing about volunteering on the farm is the connection to other people, she observes that working alongside other people outdoors makes it all much more natural and relaxed, conversations flow and people can just be, accepted for who they are and how they’re feeling that particular day.

As always Mike the Volunteering Manager has rave reviews, “Mike is brilliant, he guides, supports and encourages, welcomes suggestions and no previous experience is needed. It feels very warm and supportive within the group. There is such kindness amongst the volunteers too, kindness is such a powerful thing. People are gentle and supportive of one another and it’s contagious”.

Recent tasks Julie has got stuck into have included dismantling an old fence to make space for a new hedge to be laid, and taking the smaller, less useful bits of wood, the ‘brash’ and feeding them into the wood chipper. That in turn provides valuable wood chip the volunteers can spread on the paths throughout the community garden to reduce mud churn in the wet weather. Julie has also been involved in measuring up for the new Welcome Shed (see Mike’s article for more on this).

Getting back more than you give

I asked Julie what she’d say to people thinking about coming to volunteer but worried about what might be asked of them, “It’s informal, relaxed, friendly and there’s no expectation you will be very skilled or physically able, people contribute in lots of different ways”.  As well as the benefits you gain as an individual volunteering on the farm, Julie is part of the volunteer group as she wants to be part of something positive that will benefit the environment, for the future of the planet. “Fordhall’s focus on climate change is vital. But Fordhall’s ethos is about the wellbeing of people as well as the land, animals and wildlife, all things I very much believe in, so to have the opportunity make a contribution to something really important feels good”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

To find out more about volunteering at Fordhall, contact Mike via email mike.grabarz@fordhallfarm.com

Nicola Syred, Community Lead