This new scheme seeks partners and land for aspiring local farmers!
During the last five months, LESS have been undertaking a feasibility study to explore setting up a ‘FarmStart’ scheme in Lancaster area.
‘FarmStart’ is a business incubator model that originated in Canada. It enables trainees to work within a structured programme to gain the necessary skills and experience to set up local commercial food growing businesses. There are a number of models that operate in the UK, including in Manchester, London and Scotland. The aims are to strengthen the local food economy and overcome some of the barriers to getting into farming.
High prices for land and rural accommodation mean that without capital it is difficult to get into farming. Prices no longer reflect the productive potential of the land as farmland is often also of interest to investors. There is also a relatively long start up phase that requires investment and low long tem returns.
But the demand for local food appears to be strong. The UK currently only produces around 50% of its own food and 80% of consumers are committed to supporting British farmers. Brexit is heightening concerns about a food economy reliant on cheap imports from other European countries and seasonal labour. Local suppliers of organic produce to the Lancaster area actively want to source more locally. A number of large institutions, including the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust, are increasingly aware of the importance of local, sustainable food for the health and wellbeing of the local population.
The feasibility study explored whether there was demand from local people to be part of a ‘FarmStart’ programme and which local organisations and individuals might support it.
We asked those interested in joining the scheme to fill in a survey. Many of the respondents had experience of allotment and community growing.
Their motivations included working with like-minded people, supporting Lancaster’s sustainable food economy and learning more about sustainable food growing. The majority wanted to work with other people to share the risks, challenges, opportunities and work associated with starting small-scale growing businesses.
The final report will be launched at an evening event on 10 September at the Storey Institute. Anyone with an interest in the scheme is welcome to attend.
Our search for an appropriate site for the programme continues. If you would like to partner us, or are aware of any land of between 1-5 acres which might be suitable, please get in touch: [email protected]
The final report is now available to view online.