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.
You can watch a wee video about the programme here:
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.