If you’re looking to make a gradual transition from community or allotment growing to commercial production, FarmStart offers the perfect opportunity to build up your skills and experiment with organic growing on a larger scale. It’s the UK’s very first farm incubator initiative!
Without hefty savings or a farm in the family, starting a new career on the land is almost impossible for most. By providing access to affordable land, shared equipment, training and a ready market, we’ve created a supported route into farming for brand new entrants, helping build a new generation of organic growers in the North West. FarmStart means that skilled and enthusiastic people from all backgrounds can build new careers in producing fresh, healthy, sustainable food for local markets.
“By the end of the first year we had also added spinach, courgettes, beans and leeks to the mix. The soil on the farm is amazing compared to the sticky clay of my allotment and I was surprised when by autumn time…..we had two hundred kilos of vegetables. This might not seem like a lot but if you think of it like bagged supermarket carrots that is two hundred bags of carrots! Things have really progressed on the site from when I first started and it really seems to be coming together and getting better all the time. They are a great bunch of people with a really positive attitude. It’s a great thing to be a part of”. Click here to read more about Simon Duffy’s first two years as a FarmStarter at our Cheshire site.
New growers undertake a year-long training course, growing on shared land for the first year, it’s a chance to see if farming suits them, and to put their ideas to the test. In year two growers continue as FarmStarters, and take on up to ¼ acre sections to trial their growing skills and business ideas. If they prove viable, they can expand each year. Some growers work on their own, others with friends or family, and depending on what they grow, spend anything from a few hours to a couple of days each week tending their crops.
FarmStart is a grower-member of Manchester Veg People, supplying veg to restaurants and institutions throughout Greater Manchester, as well as to our sister co-operative Veg Box People. We also supply Abbey Leys Farm Shop and Farmers Market and Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton.
Overall 27 people have participated in the FarmStart programme over the last 4 years and have continued on to jobs with existing growers, growing on other sites or to work in a range of other exciting food related projects.
"It doesn't get much better than half an hour down the road. As a Veg Buyer at Unicorn Grocery, this is the 'field to plate' freshness offered to us by Farmstart. It's been great to witness novice growers getting such a buzz from seeing their produce on our shelves. Our involvement has afforded them the opportunity to get to grips with the retail end of growing... customers' quality expectations, pricing etc. Not that quality has been an issue, the produce delivered to us in the past two seasons has been excellent. The next challenge will be whether the Farstart-ers can convert their enthusiasm & newfound skills into viable organic growing businesses. Hopefully, the answer is yes, certainly Farmstart is exactly the kind of enterprise we feel is invaluable in nurturing budding organic growers".
Dan Weston, Veg Buyer, Unicorn Grocery
Our original Farmstart Abbey Leys site is located on Abbey Leys organic farm near Knutsford, established in 2013. As of 2016, our second site FarmStart Woodbank offers protected growing facilities (in polytunnels) in the heart of urban Stockport. Click on the links to read more about each site and how to apply.