In February 2021 a new FarmStart programme will begin in North Lancashire. The year-long programme will enable people to learn the practical skills needed for growing at commercial scale whilst running a small business. It will provide a supportive space for people to explore whether they want to become farmers.

The programme is part of a ten-year strategy set out in 2018 by local social enterprise LESS and the wider FoodFutures network. The plan aims to build the skills and capacity for a ring of small-scale producers around the Lancaster district, providing organic, healthy food for local people through a collaborative, resilient local food system. 

The new FarmStart programme will be based at The Plot at Old Holly Farm between Lancaster and Garstang. From two small paddocks the site will be developed into a training centre for would-be small-scale farmers and a supplier of local organic produce.

The FarmStarters will be involved in all aspects of the project. If you join the scheme, you will have access to:

  • a dedicated year-long programme to enable you to develop the skills, expertise and experiences that are required for small-scale commercial horticulture
  • an opportunity to work on-site two days a week (for 40 weeks) to work alongside an experienced grower
  • a chance to shape and input to our wider strategy to build local, agro-ecological food supply and distribution mechanisms
  • support for those FarmStart trainees who want to transition towards a career as a grower at the end of the programme

The course curriculum will cover everything from site-planning to weed management, soil health to propagation, crop planning to growing techniques, harvesting to packaging, pricing to sales. It will also explore different business models such as coops and social enterprises where organisations have a range of principles that underpin their businesses rather than being solely profit driven.

The curriculum will be delivered through specialist classroom sessions, on the job training and mentoring and farm visits to other local projects. 

The focus will be on growing at commercial scale and on commercial terms, using organic, regenerative principles, and building a resilient local food production and distribution system within north Lancashire.

Bursaries are available. 

If you would like to join a virtual information session at 1pm on 11 December, email ellen@lessuk.org. For more information and to apply see: https://foodfutures.org.uk/the-plot/

We ran a pilot course in 2019. You can read about some of the participants’ experiences here:

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