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. Read our main FarmStart page to find out how it all works.
FarmStart Abbey Leys is Kindling’s original (and the UK’s first-ever!) farm business incubator, launched in 2013. It's situated on Abbey Leys organic farm, just 15 miles to the south-west of Manchester near Knutsford, with great motorway access to the city. The land is flat and fertile and already certified organic.
After our first five years at the site, we are pausing the programme at Abbey Leys in 2018 whilst we review every element of FarmStart and give the soil a bit of a rest!
We’ve been taking advice from seasoned growers, visiting similar initiatives on the continent, talking to past participants, learning from others around the UK trying to do the same thing and conferring with our land lords. This process will continue in 2018 whilst we invest in improving the site ready to recruit new growers to an improved programme in 2019.
With limited resources we are rightly proud of our achievements over the past five years, with fifteen people having benefited from the hard work of our dedicated FarmStart Co-ordinators. Here's what some have gone on to do:
- Axel and Owen are now members of the Glebelands City Growers market garden co-operative, which has sites in Sale and at Woodbank.
- Corrina is co-ordinating Kindling’s social prescribing pilot at Woodbank.
- 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 have gone to waste.
- Kindling’s Chris & Helen have supplied fruit & veg from their part of the site to MVP, VBP and Unicorn Grocery for the full five years.
"For me, it's all about the soil and the environment. Organic food is so often discussed in the context of health benefits or taste, and these are important, but it's protecting our soils and stewardship of the land – principles which lie at the heart of organic farming – which matter most to me. Becoming a grower at FarmStart has allowed me to play a very hands-on role in these things and it's an amazing thing to be a part of". Corrina, FarmStart participant 2015.
For 2018 we are recruiting for FarmStart Woodbank, which is based at our horticulture hub in Stockport, alongside Glebelands City Growers and various community growing projects. FarmStart Woodbank specialises in tender high-input crops, and supplies Manchester Veg People, Veg Box People and Unicorn Grocery, amongst others.
Applications for FarmStart are taken each autumn. If you're interested in applying for FarmStart Woodbank, please email FarmStart@kindling.org.uk
If you're unsure, the first step for budding FarmStarters is to take part in our intensive four-day Commercial Organic Growers Course, taught by Glebelands City Growers and Jenny Griggs of Fir Tree Farm at FarmStart Woodbank and at their sites in Sale and St Helens in the early autumn.
If the time is not right for you, we encourage interested folk to spend time over the summer helping out on local organic farms with our Land Army.