Produced in Kent Logo
Communigrow Dave training volunteers

20th January 2021

Volunteering with Communigrow: An outdoor experience surrounded by nature and tranquillity

Interview with David Jeffrey, Horticultural Leader

David Jeffrey took up a full-time position at Communigrow after being made redundant in early 2020. David is very skilled and experienced and has been able to transfer his knowledge to those who volunteer to maintain the 2.4-acre site. He had previously served within a role in a prison – teaching inmates valuable life skills including how to grow and harvest their own crops. David devotes his time to supporting Communigrow and keeping the field in shape. Here he shares what made him want to get involved with the charity and the positive work that he does to benefit the community. The green-fingered enthusiast is calling on anyone who is interested in horticulture or those who are seeking an escape from the demands of life to sign up as a volunteer.

When did you first become interested in growing vegetables? My first recollection of doing gardening was with my father - I must have been about six or seven at the time. We were growing tomatoes and he showed me how to sow the seed. When the tomatoes had grown, and I ate it for the first time – I noticed it had a totally different flavour to what I was expecting. When I worked in the prison, I wanted to inspire others to have that same experience growing something from almost nothing into a plant and reap the benefits of the lovely flavour you get afterwards.

What inspired you to join Communigrow? I have been at Communigrow for about seven months and although I have only been here a little while, I feel really at home here. I encourage anyone who wants to learn about horticultural growing or just wants that space to give them time to think to volunteer. Being here is brilliant, I almost feel as though I am semi-retired. I come to work, and I work in a field – this is my office! I have got plants and nature around me – it is great.

What impact has Communigrow had on mental wellbeing? As soon as you turn up to this field – it is peaceful. For me that is an important part of being in Communigrow, the place that it is. It helps others to think about where they are in life and what they want to do. We have schools that come here as well and the joy that you get from seeing children enjoying gardening and harvesting the vegetables that we grow here. I would like to have a Communigrow in every major town in Kent. It would be great if we could replicate this elsewhere in the county. I know the community is benefiting from what we are doing here.

How should prospective volunteers get in touch? We are always looking for volunteers and anyone can get in touch via social media or by calling our telephone number – you will find them on our website. They do not have to have any experience in growing or gardening, they will learn that while they are here.

How is the workload distributed amongst the volunteers? I write a list of tasks that we have available over the upcoming months and hand it to Maria, our Volunteer Coordinator. She asks them what tasks they would like to get involved with and invites them to try something new. Volunteers can select a task they would like to do, and we give them the skills and training to enable to do it. It may be something they have never done before, and we give them the confidence to do it. Some volunteers come in with skills already, but I want to broaden their horizons on what they can do.

What upcoming projects are you working on? We have been given a small greenhouse and that is going to be put aside for melons and watermelons next year (something that Communigrow has never grown before). The veg box scheme is working well, and we are getting a large intake of people who want to have fresh produce and know where it is grown. We are looking after nature, so it looks after us.

Due to the current lockdown the field is only open to regular volunteers who book in advance. Our Veg Box scheme will be offered between April and December. To register your interest contact us at 075 4643 7272 or vegbox@communigrow.org.uk

We are planning to start to receive new volunteering applications in March and also open the field every Saturday (10am-12noon). This will be subject to new government updates. Any enquiries about volunteering please email us at volunteer@communigrow.org.uk

Vegetable Selection

Communigrow