According to a report by the Landworkers’ Alliance, approximately 77% of the vegetables we consume in the UK, and at least 18% of our fruit comes from the EU. In addition, the average age of farmers in the UK is 59, and a shortage of labour in the UK horticulture industry is causing 70% of UK horticulture businesses to consider relocating production to the continent.
Brexit therefore poses some interesting challenges for UK food, with the risk of price increases of imported fruit and veg potentially being one. There seems to be a real need to revitalise and scale up UK food production in a way that is healthy for both the environment and all who depend upon it – people included! As part of this work we need to be supporting new entrants into farming, particularly during the early stages when vital farming experience is gained and sustainable business models trialled and developed.
In response to these needs, LESS is seeking to raise £1000 from local supporters to research the feasibility of a starter farm incubator scheme (FarmStart) in Lancaster District.
A FarmStart is one model for supporting new entrants into farming. It is essentially a form of business incubator that enables individuals to make the gradual transition from community or allotment growing to commercial food production, offering: access to land, training from experienced organic growers/ food businesses and support in accessing local markets. This support is offered over a set time scale – up to five years for example. ‘FarmStarters’ then leave the incubator with the experience required to start a sustainable growing businesses; strengthening local sustainable food supply chains.
As part of the proposed Funding a FarmStart Feasibility study, LESS will scope the demand for a FarmStart project locally, approaching a number of schools, colleges and food growing projects to ask questions, including: What are the barriers to new people entering farming in Lancaster District? Would a FarmStart project address identified barriers to new entrants locally? What would a FarmStart project need to offer to attract people locally?
LESS will also scope potential FarmStart models by reviewing and learning from established schemes in the UK, France, Canada and the US. This will feed into a local resource mapping exercise where we identify potential land, partners and other resources locally that will enable a FarmStart to work here.
Proposals for a suitable Lancaster model will hopefully come out of the feasibility work above.
If you are interested in supporting this exciting work please contact [email protected] by the 16th February 2018. We hope for the feasibility work to begin in March 2018.