Our farming population is aging, and it’s a not an easy career to move into. Our FarmStart programme was the UK’s very first incubator and training initiative for organic growers. FarmStarters at our Woodbank site in Stockport undergo a year-long training scheme, led by experienced grower and trainer Helen Dodd. This year, sports coach and RHS student Belinda is one of them:
“Wow, wow, wow, my head is about to burst with all this new, exciting and challenging information!!! That is how I feel about my first couple of months on FarmStart. Learning about soil fertility, to crop planning, to pricing and crop estimation... and that’s just a tiny part of the theory side, which is taught by Rob who is just an incredible wealth of information, to the practical side which is taught by the amazing and inspiring Helen Dodd at Woodbank.
We have sown many, many seeds including beans, peas, squash, and it is really exciting coming in each week and seeing how they have grown. Also each morning harvesting for Veg Box People and other buyers, it’s eye-opening seeing how much work is needed to deliver what the customer wants. I also had a go at driving the rotavator around the field, this was soooo much fun, my first taste of being a practical grower!!
It’s been a reality check visiting other growers and seeing how hard they have to work, the very long hours, time taken away from your family, and non-existing holidays. The unpredictability of growing a crop that could be favourable one minute but not the next. Realizing once again that we have to support our local growers, and the impact of how the choices we make as consumers massively affect their lives.
I am loving every minute and I am always being asked ‘what am I going to do once I finish?’ The answer is ‘No idea, there are many possibilities, Who Knows?’ All I know is that being on the FarmStart course teaches you so much about being a commercial grower and it’s amazing going in each week!!"
Where are they now? Catching up with some past FarmStarters:
Axel and Owen are now full-time members of the Glebelands City Growers co-operative, with sites in Sale and at Woodbank.
Corrina is co-ordinating Kindling’s social prescribing pilot at our Woodbank growing hub.
Caroline & Erinma set up FarmLab, a pop up urban farming experiment designed to “prototype the future of food”.
Corrin kick-started and runs Real Junk Food Manchester, creating delicious pay-as-you-feel meals from food that would otherwise have gone to waste