In 2016, we ran a new coaching programme, Making a Living from Local Food, offering free mentoring and peer-to-peer-support to aspiring and recently established local food entrepreneurs from across Scotland. It was a diverse bunch of new entrant farmers, crofters, processors, bakers, distributors and caterers. At the close of the year, we’re sharing what some of the participants have been up to. Fifth in this blog series is Iain Withers, who has started Narrowboat Farm along the Union Canal in Linlithgow. Iain has also taken part in our 2014 New Farmer Programme. His mentor this year was Rob Davidson from the Cyrenians Farm.
When did you start?
We began putting the infrastructure together in 2016 and expect to launch in 2017.
What’s your dream? Where do you want your business to be in 5 years?
We want to set up as a super-efficient market garden with an emphasis on added value processed products made mainly from plants and animals on site at Narrowboat Farm. In 5 years time, the orchard and fruit bushes will be mature and the beehives will be in full swing alongside the free-range hens. We will have an awesome range of tasty products being sold locally.
What motivated you to set up this business?
An interest in sustainable living and self-reliance is my main interest. Also as a lifestyle business where the work is the point, not making money from work to fund other things.
How have you developed your business this year?
The key focus this year has been planning and putting in place an infrastructure to make things super-efficient and manageable before getting going with farming properly. Testing the soil, learning the land, getting buildings, power, water etc etc in place.
How has the coaching programme helped you with this?
Rob has been an amazing asset helping to think of all aspects involved in setting up a well thought-out farm. In particular whilst we put together the business plan and farm start-up grant, Rob was on hand to help bounce ideas and problems off, as well as giving us key contacts and knowledge.
What have you enjoyed?
I’ve enjoyed the research and learning the best way to do things before starting.
What have you learned?
That it is probably not possible to make a living from local food unless you do something spectacular. It is also probably difficult to enjoy the job unless you make things really efficient.
What are your next steps going forward?
We are in limbo until we hear about the farm start-up grant. We submitted in October and have no idea when we will find out if we are successful. This makes it hard to plan for 2017. We have spent all our cash, and desperately need the extra input from the grant to get up and running efficiently. If we are unsuccessful we will reconsider the whole farming thing unfortunately.
Find out more:
https://www.facebook.com/narrowboatfarm (not yet launched)
Making a Living from Local Food is kindly funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund.