This is a guest blog written by Rohan Wedge.
With last week being Mental Health Awareness week, and this week being National Children’s Gardening week, I have been thinking a lot recently about my passion for growing my own vegetables and flowers; my career in Leadership Development and being a mum - and how these worlds have all rather unexpectedly intertwined. So much so, it’s prompted me to write my first ever blog post on LinkedIn.
Before having my daughter, Ruby, I had previously owned an allotment plot and attempted to grow my own veg, but it was a big plot and I seemed to spend more time pulling out weeds than growing prize-winning pumpkins. In fact, it was quite the joke in my family when at the occasional Sunday roast, I’d be beaming with delight over a lone parsnip on a plate that, despite its wonky state, absolutely deserved a standing ovation because it was grown by me and came from my plot.
And yet despite my enthusiasm, my life had started to fill with other priorities. I was commuting a long way to work, we had a busy social life. My trips to the allotment became less, and my harvests became non-existent. My attendance at the allotment committee meetings was verging on poor (Oh yes! I was a fully-fledged allotment committee member too). One day after a particularly hectic week, my husband gently suggested that give it up. And so… I did. I reluctantly gave notice on my plot, resigned from my position on the committee, and threw myself into work and the rest of life as I knew it.
And then in November 2016 I fell pregnant with my daughter, Ruby. At the same time they were making redundancies at my work, and so I opted for voluntary and found myself with a bit of time in my hands a few months before she was born. And I found my way back to the allotments… wondering amongst the plots and gazing enviously at the neat rows of carrots and shiny red strawberries. I bumped into the Chair of the committee and she suggested that I take a small plot on the community allotment that would be more manageable. I practically bit her hand off there and then.
That was three years ago and since then I’ve been tending this little 2 by 2 metre plot with more gusto and enthusiasm than ever before. As well as growing way more vegetables, this tiny little patch of soil has been my absolute saviour.
It’s helped me to discover more about my values, what genuinely makes me happy and what’s important to me. I’ve found my tribe of equally enthusiastic and friendly allotment folk – both fellow community allotment holders on our site, and GYO enthusiasts on Instagram (I set up an Instagram account @growlikeamum to save my friends and family from being bombarded with pictures of marrows and “cute baby cucumbers”!) I love that it's a hobby that I can involve Ruby with. It gets us out the house, she’s learning about where her food comes from (putting Popeye to shame in her love of raw spinach!). And she pretty much runs wild down on the community plot… chatting to snails or pinching someone else’s strawberries!
And yet the biggest and most valuable benefit of growing my own only became apparent to me last September. This was a particular difficult time for me. I was trying to juggle a new role, a long commute as well as attempting to be a fully present mum and wife. I felt stressed, overwhelmed, and was being pretty hard on myself. And on a day when it all felt a bit too much, I headed to my little plot, picked up a spade, and started digging. I felt myself unwind both physically and mentally. It was on this day that it hit me that it really is true. Being outside, connecting with nature and all that comes with the growing your own 100% helps your mental health. It helps you to gain some much-needed perspective and it’s taught me some very important lessons in life.
And whilst the worlds of allotments and my corporate job in Leadership Development may seem poles apart (if you pardon the pun!) I keep finding myself drawing parallels. Especially in light of COVID-19 pandemic.
The lessons in mental health and mindfulness, this connectedness with nature that lock down has brought. The need for patience - as I have discovered the hard way that different seeds and plant varieties all adjust to light, temperature and their environment at very different rates. What works for some, doesn’t work for others in much the same way as people. The need for good measured judgement, and learning from our past mistakes (do I plant now and risk a frost, do I hold off?) The need for kindness and compassion for those in our community, looking out for one another and showing we care. The care, consideration and gratitude for this planet and our environment that nearly every grower I’ve met has shown. And finally, the understanding and acceptance that sometimes you get things wrong, that things often aren’t perfect and that’s OK - there’s always next season.
So yes, there’s a lot our corporate leaders can learn from some seeds and some soil.
As well as this post being a first, I am also sharing a poem I wrote last week which sums up just how much I have personally benefited from pursuing my GYO passion and what lessons I’ll be passing on to Ruby. Have a read … and then if you’re feeling inspired - go plant a seed. 😉
You can find Rohan on Instagram @growlikeamum and click here to read her wonderful poem!
Square Mile Farms bring vertical, urban farming to city dwellers in their homes and in the workplace. We aim to bring people closer to food production and help to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living. Find out more about our offering and get in touch here with any queries. Sign up to our newsletter for tips on a healthy lifestyle and a round-up of relevant news. You can also follow us on social media to stay up to date with our journey, find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Why not join our online Urban Growing Community for advice on growing at home and much more!