Mark Thackray started volunteering with Green Connect two and a half years ago. We chatted to him about the different roles he has done and why he loves volunteering.
How did you start working for Green Connect in the first place?
I began going to the farm once a week and helping [farm manager] Cal with whatever needed doing that day. Right at the start it was mostly normal garden jobs like weeding, pruning and planting, and over the years I’ve had a chance to do so much more.
I regularly volunteer with an organisation called Youth With a Mission, which is an international Christian training organisation based in Port Kembla. Students come from all around the world to stay and complete training with us. We found out that there was a farm behind Warrawong High School that needed help and so some of our students started volunteering there. It was through that relationship that I first got to volunteer on the farm.
When COVID-19 hit and the borders closed, almost all our training stopped as well. That meant that our volunteers went out looking for extra things to engage in within the Illawarra community. So recently I’ve started working in the Green Connect office as an admin assistant as well as helping on the farm.
Why do you like volunteering?
I really like to give back without receiving anything in return. Volunteering is something I’ve been doing for five years now and I just really enjoy it.
It’s the ability to use my time to serve other people’s needs.
What’s the highlight of your time at Green Connect?
I always like working on the farm. I really appreciate how good the Green Connect staff are at championing you in whatever you try, and that’s no different
on the farm. If you’re keen to try something new, Cal will trust you with the task even if you don’t have much (or any) experience – I’ve found a lot of freedom and joy in working there.
After the first lockdown finished last year, we all started working on the new hub. So it’s been really cool to see that all come together and see the transformation of what the land looked like two and a half years ago when we first started compared with now. There are new offices and work areas, a kids area and places where people can actually come in and interact with the garden.
Our team was involved in making a cob wall. It’s just cool to go there every week and see something that you helped build and it’s going to last for years to come.
What’s your favourite activity to do on the farm?
I really enjoy doing stuff with the animals, moving the goats and that sort of stuff. The goats are very smart but a bit cheeky. Yesterday we moved them to a new paddock but we didn’t have very secure fencing around it so they were getting out. I had to go up and sort it out. As soon as they saw me they realised they were doing the wrong thing and ran back under the fence. Then I was in the pen fixing up the fence to stop them and a couple walked straight past me and under the fence and back out they went.
They’re good when they’re in a big group but when they run off on their own, they’re a bit naughty.
My normal activities keep me inside so I enjoy anything that gives me the chance to get out on the farm. And knowing that the work I do is not only benefiting the farm, but all the people that get veggie boxes as well. The work that we do actually has such a wide reach.
You can volunteer on the farm at one of our “dig days” held on the last Friday of the month, from 9am to 1pm. Or Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 8.30 – 2.30pm. Follow this link for more information and to register your interest.