(A version of this post was originally featured in my Facebook series on 'no bull-shit kickass female entrepreneurs'. This series has a couple of aims, including a selfish one [to meet cool people in the area] and a less-selfish one [to help cool ladies promote themselves and their businesses by providing them with professional documentary or editorial-style photographs].
And now, for the story of Megan and Patchwork Gardens...
I met a lovely lady today called Megan. She co-owns Patchwork Gardens and spends her days - particularly in the dreary months of winter - working in the many greenhouses on the farm. To make things easier for everyone, the greenhouses have names, like Katniss and Ron.
The farm is a short and windy drive North on Battersea Rd, and on its face is a quaint and unassuming place that's simply going about its business - the serious business of growing produce. When Megan comes out to meet me, her hands are already covered in earth, big friendly smile across her face. We walk around and I see that the farm is far bigger than it looks. It presents a pull, too, to the visitor, a tug that makes you want to linger and inquire, and peek with curiosity at the seedlings in the soil.
To naive eyes like mine, a life spent toiling over tiny edible plants in greenhouses is all charm & rural idyll. Yet there are, of course, stresses involved in running a thriving organic vegetable and herb CSA. Everything from payroll to fixing the machines used to cultivate the land - including the neatest-looking 1940s orange tractor - has to be handled.
Patchwork Gardens does a lot of great things for the community, too. They donate fresh greens to Loving Spoonful, and they visit schools, inspiring young minds and turning them on to all things soil and veggie.
She has to do some repetitive activities in the greenhouses, Megan warns me, as if in apology. I tell her that photographers take advantage of repetition to get the best shot, and this is true. But mostly, I'm savouring the serenity of her moving small beds of earth and seeds from here to there. Sifting the seeds over large trays seems almost meditative. Each seed fits neatly into a tiny hole in the sifting tray. Then, it is carefully deposited into a thin bed of earth, divided perfectly into small wells.
Megan's been at this for fourteen years. That's well over the 10,000 hours you purportedly need to expend to become an expert at anything, really, and enough time to weather highs and lows, and divvy up tasks, and hone skills and acquire the calm that comes with years of sound knowledge on a topic. Enough time to acquire artistry in your chosen profession.
The greenhouses are planted with all sorts of greenery - parsley, basil, an array of juicy and bright micro-greens. The Chinese lettuce is the one that gets eaten preferentially by slugs (was it slugs? or some other critters maybe...). It's warm in there, though the day is wet and chilly. I wish that it had rained, so that the pitter on the plastic could have surrounded us.
At the end of our meeting Megan puts on her backpack and heads home for lunch. Hers is the grey house just across the way. Watching her walk the hilly field, I can't help but admire the tranquil patch of land Megan has made her life's work. There must be little that compares to feeding communities through the labour of your hands.