“We Built A Farm In A Week” by Gracie Chick – a reluctant teenage farmer

“You built a farm in a week!” our neighbour laughs as he drives past the once abandoned donkey pen, small dusty yard and strip of disused grass that is now home to a polytunnel, ten happy chickens, a veggie patch with a neat fence, tidy piles of manure and compost, a tea station and seats, water tanks recycled into growing beds and tools stacked in a corner. He’s right, with a bit of thought, teamwork and effort, we have built a mini farm in seven days. But why? None of us are farmers, or even gardeners. This year we had planned to travel the UK spreading the message of the necessity of community, bridging social divides, giving talks and hosting CommuniTea events. 

But then everything changed for everyone and, over the space of a week, the Coronavirus transformed me into a spade wielding, fence building farmer. Trust me, I know absolutely nothing about growing food or keeping chickens and, to be honest, I’m not particularly interested in agriculture or animals. However, I am interested in being in control of my own life and taking power into my own hands to make sure my family and community have enough food to eat. I’d have laughed at you if you’d said to me three weeks ago that I’d now be spending the foreseeable future digging through mud and composted horse poo, I’d have told you that I am a young person who writes important articles about social change and rewiring society – definitely not some green fingered gardener. But now society is being rapidly rewired whether we like it or not, and things have changed, maybe just not in the way we’d expected. Through our week-long ‘farming journey’ I’ve realised that none of us are powerless to make positive changes in the world. Especially since most, if not all, of those changes begin in our own lives. 

Often, the most powerful thing we can do is let our everyday actions speak louder than our words. As the many ordinary people we’ve met who are making a difference in their communities demonstrate, we can’t wait for or rely on anyone else to change things for us and at the moment, we need food, and so I am currently a change-making youth voice doing the most powerful thing I can do right now – getting stuck in growing vegetables and providing for my family and community. A week ago we were staring out at an empty, deserted yard, just trying to envisage what it would even look like if we built all this stuff we were talking about and now we have created an incredible and useful space which will soon (hopefully) yield delicious fresh vegetables and eggs. 

Because we are growing some of our own food, it also means we won’t have to take money from the government. At the moment they are giving out financial aid left, right and centre to keep this country afloat and if they continue to shell out to everyone who is entitled to it, the government will collapse entirely – meaning those who really, desperately need the help will not get it. However, if we all took only what was necessary and those of us who can provide for ourselves make the decision to do so, as well as those of us who have excess sharing with those who don’t, together we could stop our society falling into ruin and build a system based on sharing, support and community at the same time. In this system no one would be at a disadvantage because we are all just human beings with an equal capacity to share and connect. We wouldn’t go hungry because we’d share with one another. I’ll share the food I grow on my mini farm with you, but I’ll also show you how to grow your own, whether you’ve got a tiny corner or fields and fields, then maybe you’ll share what you grow with me. Or maybe you can teach me something in return?

Not everyone can grow their own food, but everyone can be part of a system based on sharing. And the part we have to play, as those who are able to, is to take only what we need and to give what we can. Through one simple empowered act such as growing some food, we have become part of positive change. 

Much like our choice to start farming, being part of the change is a choice every one of us can make in our own lives. It will not be a political shift or one led by any kind of leader, but a revolution of ordinary people choosing to care for one another. We’ve already seen the incredible potential we have to support each another in the face of this crisis, why stop when it ends? Why not use that connection to build a better world? 

You may think that sharing is against our human nature and that we could never shake the overriding desire to get as much as we can for ourselves and then defend it, that any other system is a dreamers idealism, but I think that this crisis has proved what we will do to support one another in our times of need in order for us all to survive. Our world will not go back to normal when this is over, we will have to rebuild it and, during that process, we will need each other more than ever. 

So I have a message for you as I dig my way through this pile of soil – do whatever you can to be part of positive change and share whatever you can too, for like when you plant seeds, you will receive tenfold.