“Kindling Farm" shouts the driver, and as you get off the bus I am there to meet you. We start the tour at the converted stables where a couple of the growers are fork-lifting pallets of fruit and veg onto a lorry. This fresh organic produce will be on school plates locally, and across Greater Manchester, tomorrow lunchtime. Schools visit the farm throughout the year to learn about where and how their food is produced.
In the poly-tunnel we meet recent graduates from our FarmStart programme. They choose to work here because they can access affordable land, work alongside experienced growers, keep their costs lower by using Manchester Veg People’s shared marketing and distribution service and benefit from Kindling’s volunteers.
We walk through the coppiced woodland, spotting birds in the native trees. But the trees don’t stop there, our amazing agroforestry system increases yields, soil retention and biodiversity. I explain that the field of flowers in front of us is managed by a new local enterprise - supplying weddings, funerals and romantics across the Northwest! The field to the left supplies flax to companies producing textiles, oil and construction materials.
We talk about the highly efficient buildings and the district heating system, the production of our own energy and our zero waste plan. I explain how, working with the Manchester-based Fairfield Group, lorries taking food into the city return with waste veg. As well as producing compost to keep our soil healthy, the composting process generates heat for our polytunnels which extends our veg growing season.
The aroma of fresh baking wafting from the Social Enterprise Hub makes us hungry, and as we enter the café it is bustling with people. You hear a group in animated discussion about engaging communities in climate change solutions. "It sounds interesting in theory" you comment, and one of them responds that it is far from "theoretical. “I can't wait to talk to people at home in Stoke about these ideas. It won't be easy, but I'm building a great network of support here.”
I explain that this event at the Centre for Social Change has been organised by some of our community shareholders, without whom we basically wouldn’t have the Farm. What’s even better, is how many get involved in so many different ways.
After lunch you help carry beer (brewed using our own barley) over from the micro-brewery to our camping barn. We are celebrating the conclusion of the ecological self-build training programme, run in partnership with a housing association. Building on a local brownfield site it has enabled young people to stay living in their local community and taught them green building skills.
I excuse myself as I need to go into a planning meeting for our AGM, we’re expecting several hundred Members to come this year. You look surprised and I smile. "That's nothing" I say. "They're hosting Question Time here next month, and that's loads more work!"