Ellen Pearce introduces The Plot – a new market garden and training centre that seeks to develop our local capacity to grow sustainable and healthy food.
The Plot at Old Holly Farm is a new one-acre market garden which will act as a training site for new growers whilst supplying locally grown organic produce to local retailers. It forms part of FoodFutures wider vision to transform our food and farming systems to be more resilient and fair whilst providing greater access to locally grown healthy produce.
This vision was formed in direct response to our broken industrial food system.
Conventional agriculture not only contributes to the climate and ecological emergencies but is also vulnerable to the shocks they may create. The Covid-19 crisis also revealed the fragility of our current global food system; highlighting the need for shorter supply chains, adaptable business models and collaboration between local producers, retailers, consumers and ultimately, citizens.
In years gone by, Lancaster was surrounded by a ring of small-scale market gardens that produced vegetables and fruit for local consumption. Now our shop shelves are mainly full of imported goods produced by global corporations, and many of our small-scale farmers are lost. The Plot is at the heart of a 10 year vision to reverse this trend.
The Plot is coordinated by LESS, a Lancaster based CIC, and has been developed with FoodFutures: North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Partnership.
The Plot will become a thriving demonstration farm that will connect people with food, land, seasonality and nature. It will train and inspire people in resilient approaches to food production and will trade and collaborate with local businesses that are aligned with its values.
Our intention is to build the environmental health at the farm by using wildlife friendly, organic approaches to food growing, whilst enhancing local wealth by skilling up aspiring local growers and by working collaboratively with other local food businesses to build resilience in the local food supply chain.
The Plot will work closely with other local food and distribution businesses; crop planning to complement other small growers, and supplying produce to Single Step wholefood cooperative in Lancaster and via the Growing with Grace veg box delivery scheme in Clapham. Our shared vision is that the Lancaster Area will, over time, become less reliant on imported food and be able to produce more within the District.
To do this, The Plot will include a FarmStart training programme to increase the number of skilled growers locally. The FarmStart model aims to combat some of the challenges involved with entering the conventional food system as a new grower, by providing:
– Access to land (which can be unaffordable for many).
– Training on small-scale climate resilient approaches to food growing.
– A community of support.
– Access to the local market.
– Collaborative approaches to developing local supply and distribution models.
From January 2021, our FarmStart training programme will begin for the first cohort of new growers. This will enable FarmStarters to work alongside an experienced lead grower to understand all aspects of running a small-scale organic growing business.
Over time, The Plot will broker new sites and provide meaningful local employment for a new generation of farmers with a passion for working on the land.
In order for the Plot to thrive, our local retailers and distribution networks also need to thrive, which requires your support.
Businesses such as Single Step are crucial to developing the wider systems needed to support the set-up of new food growing enterprises around North Lancashire. As a not-for-profit cooperative with an ethical sourcing policy, Single Step seeks organic, locally grown food and as such plays an important role in building our vision of a fair and resilient food system. Spending our money with businesses such as Single Step can support work towards this vision.
You can also support The Plot and other local food businesses by becoming a FoodFriend www.foodfutures.org.uk/foodfriends
Read this article and lots more in Lancaster District Magazine.