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TEAM: Meet Martha and what is a WWOOFer?

We couldn't do everything that we do at Green Farm without our trusted team, including our volunteers. So today we'd like to introduce Martha Harwood, who was a recent WWOOFer at Green Farm and explain more about the important role she has played, and, despite being with us for just 2 weeks, how her legacy lives on!

First, let us tell you what WWOOF means and what the role of a WWOOFer entails.

What is WWOOF?

WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms and is a global organisation that links volunteers (WWOOFers) with organic and sustainable farmers. It's a program which promotes cultural and educational exchange between the farmer and the volunteer and builds on the worldwide community of conscious ecological farming and sustainability practices.

WWOOF started over 50 years ago and has grown into a community of hundreds of thousands of people. We're a proud partner within the scheme and have welcomed four WWOOFer volunteers to Green Farm over the summer months this year, embracing our passion to protect and preserve nature, the landscape and the land for a sustainable future.

What is the role of a WWOOFer?

A WWOOFer rolls up their sleeves and participates in the daily life of the farmer, helping on the farm and learning about sustainability, whilst experiencing a new environment and culture. In return for their hands-on help, they receive free accommodation and board during their stay. Martha was lucky enough to stay in one of the luxury guest rooms in our 15th Century Farmhouse normally reserved for our Spa, Retreats & Corporate Stays.

More about Martha

Martha was an immense help whilst she was here. She assisted Martin with all of the daily tasks on the farm, including looking after the chickens, pigs and sheep, and moving the cattle. She also helped in the Community Wildlife Vegetable Garden.

Her lasting legacies are the Welcome Board and other Notice Boards that you will see around the Community garden listing all of the current wildlife sightings in the gardens, and sharing valuable information that our visitors love!

Martha has a keen interest in ecology and especially insects. She also produced a wonderful list of all the insects that we are lucky to share Green Farm with, including a detailed study of the dung beetles in the cow pats and studying the faecal egg count of our sheep!

Martha was the perfect match for us. She is passionate about prioritising positive human interaction with the natural world. She completely values how humans will, and can, continue to use animal products, as long as nature is respected. Like us, she enjoys being able to facilitate people to see the beauty in the wildlife that we have here in our corner of Kent and across the UK.

Martha commented at the end of her tenure how she enjoyed being able to take part in both the more traditional aspects of farming as well as the wildlife-related tasks, plus she loved spending the whole day outside too! We don't blame her; our setting in idyllic ancient woodland and meadow pastures makes Green Farm a very special place.

What wildlife can you see at Green Farm?

In the summer, the Community Garden is abundant with hoverflies, bees and butterflies, but as we move into winter and the plants have died back a little, the wildlife becomes less outgoing. But there's still plenty to enjoy.

The dead plants that are left in the Wildlife Garden are a food source for garden birds like blue tits, robins, coal tits and great tits. These small birds tend to flock together in winter to look for food. Even though a lot of trees have lost their leaves, the hawthorn still has a few bright red berries on, and these are eaten by birds too. Similarly, the willow hedge is providing some much-needed shelter for birds and hibernating insects.

In the winter it seems like there’s not much to see in the pond here at Green Farm, but many insects and some amphibians (the frogs and newts) keep warm in the mud at the bottom of the pond. Dragonfly larvae will also be there at the moment before they become the flying insects we see in summer; dragonflies spend most of their life as larvae, and they usually spend one or two years living in the water.

Winter is also a great time for looking for fungi, as they prefer soil and wood when it’s damp, so you will see all sorts of different species across our farmland and ancient woodland. Above ground what you are able to see is what’s called the ‘fruiting body’ but fungi are mostly made up of thread-like structures called ‘mycelium’ which stay hidden underground. Some common fungi to look out for around the community garden are Shaggy Inkcap, Bracket fungi on the larger trees, and Sulphur Tuft.

Not many flying insects are active in the cold, but if you see groups of long-legged gnats flying together, they are probably winter crane flies. Winter crane flies, unlike other crane flies, have eyes that can sense light and dark. Many of these flies feed on decaying organic material, so pay attention to the compost heap for any swarms!

If you are interested in wildlife and learning more about everything that lives on the farm with us then come along to our pop-up events, talk to us at your next Spa Day or take a guided walk through the Wildlife Community Garden, our ancient woodland and our Fairyland when you are next at Green Farm. There is so much to explore!

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