It was a chance meeting at a horticultural course that led Lindsey Hopper down the garden path to local organic enterprise, Tuppenny Barn, where she is now the chief volunteer.
After working for many years in local primary schools, Lindsey decided to pursue her lifelong interest in gardening and obtained a Royal Horticultural Society qualification in horticulture.
And it was during an RHS course eight years ago that she was introduced to Tuppenny Barn by another volunteer – and she hasn’t looked back.
“I fell in love with the project immediately and have been here ever since,” she said. “During this time there have been enormous changes in terms of the facilities and the actual growing activities. Every day is a challenge and I am always learning something new.”
When Lindsey joined Tuppenny Barn, near Emsworth, in 2007, the daily routine involved growing organic fruit and vegetables and selling to the public via a site shop and weekly VegBag subscription scheme.
Now the 2.4 acre site features an eco-build education and community centre which has allowed activities on site to expand to school visits, social and educational courses and a busy programme of community events.
The pace of life has also quickened on the growing side and Lindsey has to balance the year-round cycle of producing crops with the need for an appropriate supply of volunteers. In addition to managing the activities of daily and weekly volunteers, Lindsey also manages students on work experience and those involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
“We have always had a steady stream of volunteers interested in working for an organic enterprise where the challenges of producing chemical-free, healthy and nutritious food is greater than more conventional methods,” said Lindsey. “All we ask is that the volunteers are enthusiastic, interested in how we grow crops at Tuppenny Barn and like to work as part of a committed, friendly team.
“They can give as little or as much of their time as they like. Some of our volunteers set aside a day or two a week to help, others work one or two hours every week. In addition to the satisfaction of growing organically without the worry about pesticides, we hope our volunteers get a real sense of achievement from an activity that can be extremely therapeutic either working on their own or with others.”
And life on the smallholding is not just about growing crops. By encouraging wildlife in all forms through the use of natural growing methods, there are daily encounters with living creatures of all shapes and sizes.
“The way that Tuppenny Barn operates provides a wonderful environment in which to work,” added Lindsey. “It’s a haven for wildlife and it is a delight to see so many birds, insects and other small creatures thriving here.”
Maggie Haynes, Tuppenny Barn’s founder, said the social enterprise would not be the same without the help of volunteers. “They play an extremely important role in what we do and have helped make the project successful,” she said.
“Since we started work on the smallholding we have had volunteers from all sectors of the community. More recently we have noticed a greater awareness of the need for volunteers within the third sector and more interest among the semi-retired who want to assist in areas other than horticulture.”
Maggie points out that the smallholding will always be for the focus for growing activities as well as the outdoor classroom for school visits. “Tuppenny Barn is all about the people within the local community that want to get involved with us and our volunteers will always be a part of that process,” she added.
“The Volunteer Centre (now Volunteer Now!) has provided us with the majority of our volunteers over the past few years and have been extremely helpful in terms of giving advice on volunteer policy, networking with other organisations that have volunteers and in general being at the end of the phone if we have had questions.”