Our FarmStart programme is about to reach a milestone (and undergo some changes) as we complete our first five years at Abbey Leys Farm in Cheshire.
We established the UK’s first organic incubator site based on a tried and tested model from North America, providing a five year programme for FarmStarters to learn about commercial food growing and build a business, before moving onto their own site.
Coming to an end of our first five year period, we feel like this is the right time to review every element of FarmStart, especially as during that period we’ve added a second site at our horticulture hub at Woodbank Nursery in Stockport. We’ve been taking advice from seasoned growers, visiting similar initiatives in France, 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 as we pause the programme at Abbey Leys, whilst we invest in improving the site ready to recruit new growers to an improved programme in 2019.
We’ve always been the first to acknowledge that we can make many improvements to the site and the support we've provided, but with limited resources we are proud of our achievements. Over these five years twenty people have benefited from the hard work of our dedicated FarmStart Co-ordinators.
Many of our FarmStarters have stayed in the food and farming sector including:
- 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 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.
- Kindling’s Chris & Helen have supplied fruit and veg from their section of the site to MVP, VBP and Unicorn Grocery (amongst others) for the full five years.
“We have benefited from this experience hugely, it has been a privilege and truly enjoyable experience. It has given us new insights and experience and has really helped us refine our plans for the eventual Kindling Farm. I can’t wait for the programme to start there again in 2019” Helen Woodcock
Corrina has been growing on the site for three years: “There have been many challenges and at times it been hard – but that’s what farming is like. I could never have done this alone, not without a lot of money and stress and risk”
Our remaining FarmStarters will be growing at our Woodbank FarmStart site in 2018, with a possible option to return to Abbey Leys in 2019. The Land Army will continue to visit the site to deal with the docks, maintain the facilities and make improvements to such things as the irrigation systems. A soil and weed management plan will be implemented to help build up the fertility of the soil, deal with the dreaded couch grass and (funding bids permitting) install more polytunnels.
If you would like to be considered for our 2018 FarmStart programme and join us at our Woodbank site in Stockport please email: FarmStart@kindling.org.uk