Green fingered Greater Manchester residents are being offered support to meet increased demand for local produce and explore new careers in organic vegetable growing, as The Kindling Trust opens applications for the fifth year of its pioneering FarmStart programme.
Based on well-established models across the Atlantic, Kindling’s FarmStart initiative provides an opportunity to test out and build a livelihood on the land, and aims to help support a brand new generation of organic vegetable producers in the North West. Breaking down some of the traditional barriers to starting a farming career, it provides access to affordable farmland, shared equipment and infrastructure, training and supported access to markets, and is currently supporting eight starter farmers.
The programme runs at two sites in the Greater Manchester area; Abbey Leys farm near Lymm, and Woodbank Park in urban Stockport.Programmes differ between the two sites but are both designed to give new growers a firm foundation on which to build a viable growing business.
FarmStart co-ordinator Alex Firman explains “Although Greater Manchester may not be an obvious setting for a career in farming, there is an increasing demand for fresh organic veg produced locally within the region. Add to that the support FarmStart offers, and there’s a real opportunity for skilled and enthusiastic people from all backgrounds to start building meaningful new careers producing healthy, sustainable food for their local area.”
The programme is suitable for experienced gardeners and allotment-holders who are interested in exploring organic vegetable production on a larger, commercial scale, as well as those with farm labouring experience who are interested in establishing their own land-based businesses.
“It’s hard for me to put a value on FarmStart, both personally and in the context of changing our food system. For me it’s all about looking after the soil and the environment” says Corrina Lowe (pictured), who is entering her fourth year of the programme and farms alongside a part-time job at a Manchester charity. “Veg growing is a really tough thing to make a living from, especially on a small scale, and FarmStart isn’t a magic bullet – nothing can change the fact that organic horticulture is hard, risky, and underpaid! But it’s incredibly fulfilling and I’m able to spend my time doing something that I totally love. I can say with certainty I wouldn’t be doing it without FarmStart.”
FarmStart is part of a bigger picture at the Kindling Trust. “We believe the food system needs to change radically so that it works better for everyone – from the producers growing our food to the communities eating it, and we create practical projects that make that happen on the ground” says Helen Woodcock, one of Kindling’s directors. “FarmStart is part of our wider vision for an alternative food economy in which food is produced in a way that works with ecosystems and protects the soil and biodiversity. A system that values food, the land and the people who produce it”.
Applications for FarmStart are being taken now until Sunday 20th November. Information on how to apply can be found at http://kindling.org.uk/farmstart or by emailing Alex@Kindling.org.uk.