Who would believe it but another Netplants workshop week has been and gone! On the fourth of its kind Superact were delighted to take trainer Jen Hunter, manager and custodian of Fernhill Eco Farm; learner Ali Bridges, bushcraft enthusiast at Growing Futures in Bristol; and Jess Smith, Biological Sciences undergraduate at Birmingham University. Our partners, Bucovina Institute in Romania were our brilliant hosts. As part of the European Erasmus+ Project, Netplants, the week centred around four workshops – cooking on a budget, foraging & cooking with wild plants, gardening on a shoestring and art & beauty with natural products. But enough from me… read what our team thought of the week!
Matilda Kay, Superact Project Assistant
My journey to join the Erasmus + strategic partnership started when the Bristol Superact team contacted Fernhill farm to host their Bristol mobility in January 2016. We were naturally delighted to offer our farm, kitchen garden and passion for wool craft to deliver the course modules and thus I became a “trainer”. It was a great honour to then be invited to the Romanian mobility and continue my knowledge, understanding & active participation with this European project. It was a hectic time to be away from our farm and thus I landed late in the day to Suceava in the north of Romania. To be warmly greeted by friendly hosts with excellent linguistic skills and local knowledge was especially appreciated and this fantastic level of Romanian hospitality has to be noted as one of the most lasting memories of this mobility.
The course started with a lighthearted range of icebreakers and I hope to remember the use of “secret friends” the next time I host unfamiliar groups – this proved to be an enjoyable way to unite the nations using small gifts and chosen words to express friendship amongst new faces.
Being an established trainer my hunger for learning held true, and it was an honour to support the groups whilst learning new facts about plants we all recognise as European favourites from the garden, hedgerows, verges and woodlands. I shall look with new knowledge next Spring when spruce saplings burst through and create more time in the kitchen to value the way food is prepared – it’s always best to learn as an active participant rather than simply reading the facts. Cooking is already a large part of my family life and to see the same tools used on everyday ingredients to create such a range of alternative healthy meals was impressive; the way the Irish participants peeled cooked potatoes, added additional raw ingredients & cooked again to create a pudding for example, shows how neighbouring nations live their habitual lives differently – and this is my second lasting Romanian memory.
There was talk of a sheep surprise the moment I arrived and as a livestock farmer this was perfect as there is no hope of our family travelling without finding local shepherds to show our appreciation for their way of life and perhaps learn a little more along the way. The trip up the mountain on horse & cart was a wonderful bumpy surprise, the weather was kind and ensured we all, as an establishing group, had moments to reflect, walk off the fabulous 3 course meals and see the abundance of native meadows in all their wild flowering glory within a primitive agricultural area. Sheep’s cheese might not be so familiar to all the visiting countries but it became a welcome addition to our communal cooking workshops where finding and using local raw ingredients is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet on a low budget. The art & beauty module, making a range of cosmetics using natural ingredients, has to be one of the most rewarding workshops I have ever attended and returning home with lip balm, deodorant, healing cream and a bath bomb, as well as finding local infusion herbs from the famous painted monasteries, means I can continue to self-treat and take active control over my own health.
It’s a rare opportunity for me to join with learning groups and this week reminded me yet again how truly fortunate we are to be the current custodians of Fernhill land and that making the effort to share our resources is one way to continue everyone’s need to reconnect with our native natural surroundings. I hope we can continue to assist in the delivery of Netplants directional movements, offer a safe refuse for those new to our region and improve the wellbeing of communities. Thanks again for the opportunity to help share empowerment.
Jen Hunter, Trainer, Fernhill farm
My week in Romania was better than even my best expectations. The Netplants project taught me not only totally new skills but helped me build on my prior knowledge and experience. The country was beautiful and fascinating, I will be going back as soon as I can! I can’t wait to use what I’ve learnt in Romania at Growing Futures in Bristol with growing food, wild food foraging, making cosmetics and producing traditional foods and drinks of both Romania and the UK. It was also fantastic to meet so many other people with similar interests and backgrounds as myself and managing to network over Ireland, England, France, Spain and Romania. You can never tell what you’ll learn and who will teach you but it’s always great to find out. In short it was a great trip that I loved and have already gained a great deal from and will gain more and more from in the future.
Ali Bridges, Learner, Growing Futures
I am very grateful to Superact for this opportunity to get involved in the Netplants mobility in Romania! It was interesting to learn about the different types of wild plants that are edible and that most of us just walk straight past! Using the plants that we collected from the wild we then cooked with them and made recipes that most of us had never tried before. In another workshop we learnt how to make natural deodorants, lip balm, and moisturiser, which was wonderful and is something I will be practising at home! At the end of the week, I was very pleased to receive a certificate from the Mayor. On top of the well-planned week of learning I met some great people from France, Ireland, Spain, and Romania and working together made language barriers very minor, if not humorous!
Jess Smith, Learner, Biological Science Undergraduate at University of Birmingham
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