Last month, six sustainable food advocates and practitioners from Lancaster spent a day with us at Woodbank, scoping out the potential to create Lancaster’s own FarmStart programme. Together they’re already doing a lot to tackle food challenges in the city, and it sounds like a FarmStart scheme could be next.
It’s been on the agenda for some time, after Lancs organisation LESS attended our FarmStart training session in 2015. They’ve since been busy setting up a seasonal farmers market in the city, but doing so has shone a light on the scarcity of fruit & veg producers close by. So, a farmer incubation scheme is firmly back on the agenda.
“We thought it was time we introduced other local food stakeholders to Kindling and re-invigorated the idea of starting a Farm Start project” Anna Clayton, LESS.
LESS is a not-for-profit sustainability organisation based in Lancaster, which as well as the market, has created an online local food directory, coordinates a sustainable food column in the local paper and has worked with a range of schools and community groups to set up food growing projects. They were joined by Claver Hill (pictured) – a six acre community farm that invites local groups to set up food related initiatives on the site. Approximately two acres is currently used to grow veg and fruit using a no-dig method of production by members of ‘Spud Club’. Produce is shared amongst members and surplus goes to projects tackling food poverty locally e.g. Lancaster Peoples’ Café. Also onboard are Transition City Lancaster and Forgebank Co-housing.
The group hoped their visit would inspire local stakeholders about the idea of setting up a Farm Start project in Lancaster; and crucially, to get an insight into what has worked well for Kindling and what might be done differently going forwards. They also wanted to identify potential areas for collaboration if they were to pursue this idea. And of course, they needed to get to grips with the finances, and how our FarmStart project interlinks with the Land Army and other Kindling-related initiatives like Manchester Veg People.
So, did we put them off?! Not exactly!
“There are now four people in Lancaster that are keen to pursue the idea of developing a FarmStart project! We are also keen to adapt Kindling’s model to ensure that it builds on the community food work already happening locally and draws on local farming talent. Our visit made the idea seem realistic!” Anna Clayton
They are now going to look for a small amount of funding to conduct a feasibility study – to develop the idea further, identify potential partners and land, and see if there is local demand for the scheme.
We are really, really looking forward to seeing the project develop. No doubt, in a couple of years we’ll be taking a trip up the M6 to go and learn from Lancaster FarmStart!
In the meantime, we're taking applications for our own FarmStart programme, the deadline to apply for next year's growing season is 19th November 2017.