After two years of looking for a suitable FarmStart site, this week LESS (a Lancaster based social enterprise) took over the lease of a small plot of land at Old Holly Farm, located just off the A6 between Lancaster and Garstang.
From two small paddocks, the next year will see the site developed into a training centre for would-be small-scale farmers and a supplier of local organic produce.
The planning for a local FarmStart scheme has been a few years in the making, but the Covid-19 crisis has really highlighted the importance of short supply chains, adaptable business models and collaboration between local producers and retailers.
The FarmStart model aims to combat some of the challenges involved with entering the conventional food system as a newby grower, by providing:
- Access to land (which can be unaffordable for many).
- Training on small-scale climate resilient approaches to food growing.
- A community of support.
- Access to the local market.
- Collaborative approaches to developing local supply and distribution models.
The project will initially work closely with other local food and distribution businesses; crop planning to complement other small growers, and supplying produce to Single Step wholefood cooperative in Lancaster and via the Growing with Grace veg box delivery scheme in Clapham.
The farm will also have an education element. We hope that visitors to Old Holly Farm and the FarmStart site will have the chance to see and learn about the growing space whilst having the option to purchase produce directly from the site (when social distancing allows).
The focus of the next few months will be on setting the site up, and so there are lots of ways to get involved with the project.
For any word-smiths or creatives out there, we are looking for a name for the new farm, which we hope will soon be one of many linked sites in and around Lancaster.
We will soon be advertising for a grower to manage the site and provide the training to the first cohort of FarmStarters who will start in early 2021.
In the meantime, if you can volunteer to help with the site set up, get in touch.
We have also launched a fundraising scheme, FoodFriends, which provides a regular draw for prizes in exchange for £5 a month donation.
If you would like to make a donation to the project, have suggestions for a name for the farm, are interested in the grower role, and/or would like to get involved in setting up the site, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.