"Kindling Trust stop" says the driver and as you get off the bus I am there to meet you. We walk in through the beautiful entrance created with local carpenters, and pass the low impact houses. "It's amazing" you say "there's still a hose pipe ban in Manchester, it’s too dry to have flowers".
We start the tour of the farm at a row of converted stables. A group of farm apprentices – part of our Land Army programme, are loading a lorry with broccoli and tomatoes from the different growers renting land at the farm. I explain that we are a member of the co-op Manchester Veg People, which helps lower our distribution costs significantly. This lorry load of fresh, affordable organic produce is on its way to school kitchens across Greater Manchester.
We move onto the glasshouses where we are starting off seedlings and experimenting with heritage crops. Inside are half-a-dozen people having a meeting huddled around large sacks of seed. These are our new commercial growers, recently graduated from one of four FarmStart incubator farm sites we set up around Gtr Manchester. They come to Kindling to access affordable land, share costs and to have other co-operatively minded producers around for problem shooting (and good company in an often isolated career).
We walk through the coppiced woodland, spotting birds and animal habitats in the native trees and undergrowth. I explain that the field of flowers in front of us is managed by a social enterprise - supplying weddings, funerals and romantics across the North West! The field to the left is part of another enterprising project, supplying flax to a small network that produce textiles, oils, and construction materials.
You ask about the carbon positive element to the site, and we talk about the highly efficient buildings and heating system, the production of our own energy, and our zero waste plan. We are researching the possibility of setting up an anaerobic digester, with Manchester-based Fairfield Environmental Services. Our same lorries taking food into the city will return with food waste to generate electricity, heat for our glass houses and supply a growing network of local farmers with liquid fertiliser.
We pass by the bakery and two people stop work to chat. One is a long term volunteer spending a year with us before setting up their own project in Lancaster. The other, a refugee who came for some recuperation is now helping us with our community engagement programme. She tells you about tomorrow's activities when a group from Oldham care homes are visiting. We supply a network of homes with fresh local produce and in return groups visit the farm several times a year to see how the crops are grown and swap stories about Manchester's rich food and farming history.
We are just in time for lunch and as we walk into the dining room, it is bustling with people. You hear people talking in Spanish. The Guatemalan Peace Brigades International project is hiring the space for a week to train new volunteers. You also overhear a group in animated discussion about how to engage different communities in the great climate change debate. "It all sounds very interesting in theory" you comment to one of them, who responds that it is far from theoretical. “I can't wait to talk to people at home in Liverpool, about the ideas that we've discussed. It won't be easy, people don't usually like change, but I'm building a good network of support here”.
After lunch you agree to help get the barn ready for the party tonight. It is the end of an ecological self-build training project, which also means that the participants can afford to stay living in their own area. I excuse myself as I need to go into a meeting about our Children’s TV series on the challenges of living sustainably. You look surprised and I smile, "that's nothing" I say "they're holding Question Time here next month and that's loads more work!"