Students' Union President and BSc (Hons) Horticulture graduate, Elliot Woollen, shares his story.
What does Writtle University College and your degree mean to you?
After several years of helping to run a community farm I wanted to learn the science and theory behind the practical knowledge I had gained, coming to WUC gave me the opportunity to study in beautiful surroundings where your classroom is 170 hectares in size!
The SU helps all students to make the most of their time at Writtle and looks after their interests. What do you hope students take away from their experiences here?
Education and learning is life long, studying should equip us with a broad knowledge of our chosen discipline but alongside this the student experience should challenge and broaden our horizons as individuals resulting in more well-rounded humans.
In 2014, you turned a derelict allotment site in Harlow into a thriving local food-growing project. What inspired you to create Herts & Essex Community Farm?
I had been travelling in Australia and working along the way on farms. This was my first experience of working in commercial food production and I was shocked by the massive amount of waste food due to it simply not being perfect.
The community farm was started as there was a need for community growing spaces, the waiting list for allotments in Harlow was 5 years+ and there was no communal growing project.
Once the project started, we realised that the impact of the community farm was far greater than just having fresh fruit and vegetables. We provide a safe space for people meet other people in the community, learn new skills, support their mental health and for children to learn about where food comes from. There are biodiversity benefits, physical health benefits and many more.
The community farm runs events throughout the year which are generally family-focused and always with the aim that they should be affordable for everyone. We have run a free community music festival called Farm Fest which showcased local music, food, arts, games and crafts and was attended by around 1000 people.
During lockdown the community farm worked alongside the local council and other organisations to provide free grow packs to over 600 residents in Harlow. This gave people the opportunity to learn about food growing, many families got involved with the project where children were keen amateur growers.
I am also part of Harlow Soup, a community crowdfunding evening which consists of a shared community meal, live music and 4 community projects pitchers hoping to secure funds to make their project happen. The pitchers each have 4 minutes each to present their project to attendees and once all 4 projects have pitched audience members vote on their favourite project, the project with the most votes is awarded all the money collected on the door.