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Volunteer Farm Worker

Willowbrook Farm
Hampton Gay, Kidlington

Posted: 6 Feb 2024

Deadline: 22 Mar 2024

Compensation: Unpaid - accommodation and food provided

Unpaid Volunteer

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Job description

With our lambing season coming up and a lot to prepare to get ready for our busy summer season, we are curently looking for volunteers to come and help on our farm for FEBRUARY, MARCH and APRIL. 

*Minimum length of stay:  3 WEEKS* 

*30 hours, 5 days a week*

Our Farm is a family-run farm in Oxfordshire. We mostly have poultry, a small flock of sheep, a few goats, some ducks, and our beloved Welsh pony Gracie. Our main activity is poultry farming, and everyday you would be working with the chickens, feeding them and helping us to keep them healthy and happy, along with other animals feed and care which varies depending on the season. The rest of the day is always a mixture of weekly scheduled tasks and ad-hoc tasks matching the needs of the moment.  The work can be physically demanding at times, so no need to go to the gym whilst you are staying with us, we will take care of your everyday workout! One thing we can guarantee is for you not to get bored as there are always loads of things going on here, especially during summertime. We cannot stress enough that farm work is as hard as it is rewarding. Never dull but never-ending. 

We butcher all our chickens on the farm and we also prepare some lamb and beef meat, burgers and sausages, so there is an opportunity to learn about small scale meat processing. The farm supplies its customers directly either from our weekend farm shop or the local farmers market, alongside offering online orders and delivery service. 

We have a small vegetable garden, active from March to October, which supplies the family and the farm café. We will need a lot of help there from spring onward, planting, mulching, weeding, and later on harvesting and closing down for wintertime.  Since we started in 2002 we have also planted many trees which we manage sustainably to  provide all the heat energy on the farm. In the summer we cut and collect the wood we will be burning to keep us warm during the cold months. We have also been growing a small orchard of native fruit trees and that means we can harvest our own apples, pears, coins,  plums, cob nuts and medlars in the autumn - and make delicious jam and tarts!

We have also constructed all the buildings on the farm, a lot of trial, error and learning resulting in the recent building of our large cob (earthen) farmhouse. We have a lot of building projects still to be brought to life and would love to hear from people with carpentry, electric, plumber, or any other construction skills as those are always needed in a way or another. We would also love to welcome volunteers with outdoor work experience such as fencing, woodcutting, and people able to help with some basic repairs around the farm. On a longer-term scale we are working to put up electric fences and plant trees to create a silvopasture system of rotational grazing, dismantle some old chicken housing and improve the vegetable garden. We are also working on installing a more comprehensive rainwater harvesting system across the farm. We also want to start renovating our kitchen and café area and making it a beautiful and bright space, so there is a lot to do for people with the right skills!

We usually have 2-3 volunteers at a time during winter and up to 8 volunteers in the summer. We try to create a friendly atmosphere and even though we are all always very busy, we will try our best to make you feel welcome. Our volunteers accommodation is separate from the family house, so you will be living together with the other volunteers. sharing rooms of up to 4 - males and females separate. Your living spaces will be adjoined to the hearth building of the farm where everyone walks in and out everyday. As a result, although we do try our best to keep the space clean and tidy you should be aware that the place can get very busy during the day, especially during summertime. On the other hand it is a great opportunity to meet many different faces, engage in interesting conversations, and learn about other cultures as we often get volunteers from overseas!

You will be expected to fulfill 30 hours of work weekly spread alongside 5 days and you will have 2 days off a week. We do welcome those wanting to do more hours, but we cannot stress enough that you should never feel forced to do so, we are already really grateful for the help we get. Days usually start at 8:00 am, you get an hour for lunch and finish around 3pm, sometimes a bit earlier if you are locking up the birds later on at sunset. We organise our schedule in a way that we always have volunteers available to help, so days off will be agreed upon with all volunteers on a rotating basis. 

We can accommodate both meat eaters and vegetarian diets, gluten free and possibly other requirements as long as it doesn't imply severe allergies because we handle allergens in our kitchen, so it might not be safe for you. We provide some meat from our own production weekly (all our meat is halal) but we cannot guarantee there will be enough for you to have it everyday, and anyways we believe that meat doesn't need to be part of every meal. You will be expected to self-cater, sometimes cooking only for yourself and sometimes cooking shared meals together with other volunteers. You will also always be expected to do your own cleaning up and share the cleaning when cooking with others. You will share facilities not only with other volunteers but also with some staff members and with the café during the weekend, so you must be ready to always clean up after yourself and help keep the place tidy. 

We also try to organise regular family & volunteers dinners which can be great opportunities to get to know each other a little better, share about everyone's cultures, get the card games out, or even  play some music if that is something you are into! The Barn is equipped with a piano and a pool table, both of which have the magic power to gather people and bring about a lot of fun, enjoyable moments. Other evenings might be quieter, giving you the opportunity to relax and do your own thing, whether it be work, study, read, go for a wonder around the farm or simply sit on the sofas in our cosy corner and get a well deserved rest. 

Our farming methods: We farm naturally and use no herbicides or pesticides and no medication for the animals other than natural remedies. We also have a strict policy to minimise waste, to use sustainable energy and to build natural sustainable buildings. We also feel building a sustainable community is part of natural farming and we work with Farmability and other organisations to encourage wider community links and participation in farm activities. We also hold regular events throughout the whole summer season and usually hold a yearly festival in August (not in 2024). Have a look at our website to find out what's going on!

Certifications: Natural farming & responsible stewardship.

What to bring : Volunteers are expected to bring their shoes, clothes and work gloves. Wellies are mandatory during wintertime in the British countryside, and good outdoor shoes that can handle mud during summertime. Ideally you would bring clothes that you don't mind getting dirty or damaged during work, and warm outdoor and indoor clothing for the winter - even summer nights can get chilly here in the UK. Be prepared for rain anytime of the year - A LOT of rain. We do occasionally get sunshine, of course, but better not to expect it so that there is no disappointment and it becomes a lovely surprise when the sun rears its head.    We do provide bedding and towels, but you will have to bring your own soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush etc... we also provide laundry facilities (washing machine and washing powder, clothes hangers - but no clothes  dryer). 

We do have Wifi in the café and internet connection works around the farm, although neither are really strong - but enough for basic use most of the time. 

If our farm has caught your interest, please send us a message and tell us a bit about yourself and what brings you here. We will get back to you and possibly set up a call for both of us to get a better picture before agreeing on a visit :)

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Application information

To apply for this position, please email us at volunteering@willowbrookfarm.co.uk with a description of yourself and your skills as well as the desired length of stay (we require a minimum of 2-3 weeks) and the dates you would be available. We will then be in touch for an interview.Thank you. 

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About Willowbrook Farm

Our Farm is a family-run farm in Oxfordshire. We have poultry, sheep, goats and horses and a vegetable garden (which supplies the family and the farm café). We have also planted many trees since starting in 2002. Some of this is a fruit and nut orchard and the rest is managed sustainably to provide all the heat energy on the farm. We have also been constructing sustainable buildings including our large cob (earthen) farmhouse.