By Islay Henderson
Having been the child of a WWOOF host farm I grew up with a house full of volunteers coming from multiple countries. During summer months my mother would bake 15 loaves of bread a week and enormous soup and salad bowls were presented daily to a table of 10 or so enthusiastic WWOOFers at the kitchen table or to all spread out on the lawn.
A mixed organic vegetable and dairy farm, WWOOFers were able to learn from my parents. Who began farming vegetables organically back in 1983. A true believer in harmonious farming techniques that benefit both the environment and the grower, my father is a font of knowledge and always willing to share. WWOOFers were able to practice vegetable growing, cheese making, bread making. Such self sufficiency practice together with the outdoor lifestyle, it is often commented, leaves people feeling nurtured.
After a long stint and jobs in Edinburgh, Duncan and I moved out West to Argyll in 2017, because we couldn’t find anywhere else quite so beautiful and wild. With hopes that a tea plantation would survive or even thrive here, at a farm with an ideal soil acidity and rainfall for the tea plant, we put in a micro hydro to run our electricity and began to grow our tea.
WWOOFers often tell me how much they love it at Glen Caladh; nestled into the hills, hugged by forest and sea. We feel fortunate to be able to share our little farm with our happy guests and to benefit from the work that goes into the land. We are hopeful that by inviting young people to the farm to work with us and share our home and meals we can be a small cog in the wheels of progress, sharing knowledge and skills and empowering each other to care for the environment in the way we live and farm.
We have a wonderful time hosting WWOOFers at Glen Caladh, we feel we can safely invite volunteers to the farm to help us in daily farming tasks that are so many and varied and we learn from one another. We are happy to be able to offer experiences that people remember, to teach skills and encourage positive environmental change. We often have 4-6 WWOOFers at a time at Glen Caladh and they invariably get along so well and get a kick out of each other’s company. A group of volunteers laughing all the time on long jobs in the tea field is a great thing to see, on a sunny day and even more on a rainy one! The time and energy WWOOFers invest in the farm is humbling.
At Glen Caladh Farm the jobs vary between weeding, mulching, transplanting, mowing, clearing, chipping, composting, building, fencing, harvesting etc etc… and soon we will have actual tea making at the farm to enable us to make our beautiful Scottish teas on site! There is never a dull moment since starting to turn this neglected property and farm into something 6 years ago. The start up of a small tea plantation is a long one and we love sharing the journey.
Islay and Duncan are members of Tea Scotland an association of Scottish tea growers and tea producers who are currently making their members’ teas collectively. You can find out more about the work of the association and it’s members here.
Glen Caladh Tea have a website where you can find out more about the single estate tea grown by Islay and Duncan on their plantation overlooking the shores of Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute.
Follow #glencaladhtea on Instagram.
We’d like to thank Islay for writing this article and for sharing these gorgeous photos.