We’ve got a brand new crop of seven FarmStarters spread over our two FarmStart sites, who will soon be getting stuck into their first ever season of organic veg production on a commercial scale. Here’s some thoughts from the folk taking part:
FarmStart is now in its second year of co-ordination by Alex Firman: “It's been a sharp learning curve and I wasn't sure how everyone felt it had gone last year but there was plenty of positive feedback and just having inducted the new growers for 2016, I feel a lot more confident about giving them realistic expectations and advice”.
Having transitioned from a previous career as a grower, Alex has got to grips with his new role as co-ordinator and has played a big role in the transformation of the new Woodbank site in Stockport, working out the best use for the different parts of the urban growing hub: “Despite some hurdles, it's really taking shape for growing in 2016. It’s just brilliant to see a site change so much in six months”.
Local resident Gaynor is one of the four FarmStarters at Woodbank. As a young child, her father was a Stockport greengrocer (as well as a keen gardener), supplying fruit and vegetables to the local community, so she grew up appreciating the value of fresh produce. She has grown on an allotment scale for several years and also worked for a commercial mushroom growing operation, now she’ll be learning the horticultural and business skills for a whole new career direction:
“Organic food growing is my absolute passion but as a single parent with limited financial resources I had never seriously considered that I would be able to follow it as a career path. When I discovered what FarmStart was about and what they were achieving in the local community I could envision the possibilities for people like me. Ultimately I would like to become involved in developing a community project to grow food commercially. As I have a degree in Complementary Therapies in Practice and recently worked as a Learning Support Assistant at college, I am also interested in incorporating and developing therapeutic growing programs that could be used in mental health and educational programs”.
Another Woodbank FarmStarter, Io, has a background in community growing, but hopes that she may transition to commercial scale: The idea of growing commercially came from visiting other small scale growers in the North West. I had always thought of commercial growing as large scale and for “country folk”. The Kindling Trust course and meeting other people wanting to learn made me join FarmStart. I think it was the support and structure that Alex was able to offer that made me sign up. I am hoping for skills, confidence and possibility of supplying the growing “organic” market in Manchester.
A few miles west, a three-strong team from Salford have come together to make up our Abbey Leys FarmStart contingent. Brother and sister Sam and Jo plus friend Ashley have a mix of growing experience between them, including home growing, working on a potato farm and long-term wwoofing in New Zealand.
Along with the others, Ashley’s been keen on the idea of growing food as a career for some time: “I have always wanted to do this but never thought I would be able to. I didn't have the knowledge and experience nor the land and capital to start it. I decided to join FarmStart as I thought it would give me the experience in growing I needed to one day do it myself”.
Jo, who’s always wanted to work outside, would love to use this experience to be able to one day sell to the public directly and cut out the large supermarket middle men: “This will hopefully have a positive impact on the environment and help towards the new way we grow and buy food in Manchester”.
On the verge of beginning their training programme, Sam, Jo’s brother, is raring to go: “Thanks for having us! We are just excited to get stuck in now!”