Making a Living from Local Food
In 2016, we ran a new coaching programme, Making a Living from Local Food, offering free mentoring and peer-to-peer-support to 23 aspiring and recently established local food entrepreneurs from across Scotland. It was a diverse bunch of new entrant farmers, crofters, processors, bakers, distributors and restaurant owners -with a common wish to sell food to their communities through short food chains. In peer groups they were matched with one of the mentors on the programme who are all experienced pioneers in the Scottish local food sector: Heather Anderson from Whitmuir The Organic Place, Howard Wilkinson from the Ayrshire Food Network, Rob Davidson from The Cyrenians Farm, Antonia Ineson from Myreside Organics and Jo Hunt from Knockfarrel Produce.
In April 2016, the programme kicked off at the Centre for Stewardship in Falkland, Fife, ending in December with a closing session at Tombreck farm, Perthshire.
Included in the programme was:
- A 2-hour group session with a personal mentor each month (on skype/in person), often hosted at participants’ own businesses/projects.
- A 1-hour one-to-one session with a personal mentor each month (phone/in person)
- Access to various resources and materials
- An online platform to exchange information and ideas
Besides supporting participants individually in getting stuck into local food production, we see this programme as one step towards building a stronger network of aspiring, new and established local food entrepreneurs in Scotland.
We’ll be running the programme again in 2017. Applications will open in March 2017. If you have any questions about the programme or want to express interest in taking part, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making a Living from Local Food is kindly funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund.
On our blog, you can read the stories of some of the participants on the programme looking back on the year:
Participants’ feedback on the programme:
- “The support you provided mentors to allow us to access their time was great, and felt like a real privilege.”
- “The programme has guided me through an invaluable learning journey.”
- “What I found as part of this programme is lovely people I want to work among; peer support is so important!”
- “The programme has kept me progressing this year.”
- “What I learned as part of this programme is that there are lots of others doing exciting things and finding it tough to survive/make it work –it was nice to feel I’m not the only one struggling.”
- “What I take away from this programme: Ethos, positivity, awareness, contacts!”
Support & Networks
- You can connect with other aspiring and new food producers through this Nourish Facebook group.
- The Future Farming Scotland programme of the Soil Association runs events exploring low-input, sustainable approaches to farming, ranging from farm walk-and-talk sessions and in-depth workshops through to longer-term field labs.
- The Scottish Crofting Federation Young Crofters is “a place for active and aspiring crofters under 40 to network, share resources and information, and to get things done.”
- The Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) is “Scotland’s largest rural youth organisation providing a social network full of opportunities from competitions and events to training and travel.”
- The Slow Food Youth Network Scotland is a budding network for young producers, food entrepreneurs and food activists in Scotland, part of a global network.
- Common Good Food is a new organisation that is a practical advocate of food sovereignty in Scotland.
- The Groundspring network, part of the Landworkers’ Alliance, is a UK-wide network for all “starter farmers, urban veg growers, beginner beekeeping collectives, CSAs, emerging dairyers, meat producers, educators…”
- WWOOF UK is “a membership charity, teaching people about organic growing and low-impact lifestyles through hands-on experience in the UK.”
The New Farmer Programme 2014
In 2014, we ran our first New Farmer Programme, introducing 20 growers to organic growing skills, and the business and marketing skills needed to develop a thriving local food business. The course included some very practical horticultural teaching, such as sowing trays of seeds, pruning fruit trees, and constructing a polytunnel. It also covered basic theory on topics such as understanding soil types, what seeds need to germinate, and management of pests & diseases. Crucially, there was also a strong emphasis both on running a business and marketing the produce.
The course consisted of 10 two-day practical training sessions each month throughout the growing season from March to December, at least 3 days per week work experience in an existing, or their own food business, and assignments between sessions, including keeping a detailed journal of their growing experiences and observations.
As well as providing valuable skills, the participants all reported the course has been invaluable for putting them in touch with a hugely inspiring and supportive network, both of existing organic growers and local food businesses, and also like minded individuals at a similar stage looking for potential enterprise partners.
Half of the 2014 New Farmers are now working in, or are in the process of setting up their own local food business. Others are putting their skills to good use in the community growing sector, to encourage these projects to grow produce as well as community.
Building on this Nourish are currently working with the University of Highlands & Islands to develop a degree programme in local food production.
All enquiries about this programme: email@example.com.
Featured photo made by Andy MacDonald: Polytunnel building in May 2014 as part of the New Farmer Programme.