local food columnI recently attended a very inspiring training day in Manchester, organised by the Kindling Trust. If you haven’t heard of The Kindling Trust, you should get to know them!

Kindling is a Manchester based organisation whose work primarily focuses on food. Kindling works with communities, farmers, practitioners, activists, and policy makers to create and support projects that bring about lasting and genuine change, all with the big aim of working towards a just and ecologically sustainable society.  Their main projects include the ‘Land Army’ (a group of volunteers who support local growers during busy times of year) and ‘Feeding Manchester’ (a network of sustainable food practitioners from Greater Manchester).

Kindling also coordinates Manchester Veg People – an original cooperative of local organic growers, buyers (restaurants/cafes, caterers and the public sector), and workers, who collaborate to provide fresh and seasonal food of the highest possible quality for Greater Manchester.

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Another of Kindling’s fantastic projects, which was the focus of the training day, is FarmStart. This scheme allows individuals to explore the possibility of starting a farming career in a very supportive environment – whilst maintaining another job for financial security.

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Kindling started FarmStart in response to the challenges faced by aspiring farmers. (Unless you are from a farming background or have access to land and money, it can be very hard to start a career in farming).  On top of this, it is currently very hard to make a small-scale farming business profitable without years of experience, and even with experience it is hard to make food pay for the cost of production (especially when food is sold at a price that does not reflect the cost of production!)

Kindling’s FarmStart project tries to overcome some of these barriers and make the route into farming easier by providing access to land, a guaranteed market and the chance to gain experience of commercial organic farming with the support of experienced growers. Kindling offers this support for five years, over which time ‘FarmStarters’ gain valuable experience and learn how to make their businesses financially viable.

New recruits (FarmStarters) start off with a quarter acre of land, which they can then expand if they successfully manage this. After a five year period, ‘FarmStarters’ leave Kindling’s land with the experience required to start their own businesses. New recruits then start the whole five year cycle again…

I found Kindling’s training day very inspiring and creative. Wouldn’t it be great to see equivalents of FarmStart and Manchester Veg People running in Lancaster?

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