Northern Farmstarts

In 2021, our first pathfinder cities – Lancaster, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham – followed a co-designed workshop programme over Spring / Summer 2021, learning from existing successful Farmstart projects across the UK about how to set up a Farmstart in their own city.

Setting up pathways to support a new generation of farmers is essential if our future food systems are to function. At the time of writing, there are seven established Farmstarts of different kinds across the UK, all using different models to achieve the same thing – supported, on the job training for people wanting to create viable small farm businesses. Farmstarts provide access to land, to community, to teaching and mentoring and business development.

Our intention is to proliferate the farmstart model in a sustainable, place-based and community-led way in new towns and cities.

This 2021 piece of work was funded by Necessity and was a collaboration between UAC and The Landworkers Alliance, which coordinates the national Farmstart Network. LWA and UAC co-designed the workshop programme and the workshop content was taught by growers at Tamar Grow Local, Kindling Trust, Mach Maethlon, and OrganicLea. A huge thanks to them.

In 2019, the LWA produced the original, definitive ‘How to set up a FarmStart’ guide. This provided a template for our workshop process.

The workshops followed the LWA guide and looked in depth at:

  • Feasibility study process
  • Models and foundational steps (national and international case studies)
  • Training and progression
  • Costing, funding and local support
  • A Farmstart visit
  • Securing future funding for next steps / implementation

We visited the Kindling Trust’s Woodbank site in September, many of us were meeting in person for the first time.


Early in 2022, each of the new northern farmstarts developed their ideas and their feasibility process. Middlesbrough launched its Farmstart in Spring 2022, no hanging about! under the expert teaching of Catherine at Barefoot Kitchen, Supported by Joe at Middlesbrough Environment City. Middlesbrough is currenty goin. g for its Sustainable Food Places gold award. Sheffield and Nottingham are in the process of securing sites having done in-depth analysis of local markets and training needs.

There is both need and interest in establishing Farmstarts among our new cluster of cities and counties in the Midlands and East cluster, as we develop a new UAC collaboration there. We will be supporting cities to join and make best use of the resources provided by the LWAs National Farmstart Network, as well as sharing our resources from the workshop programme in 2021. We’re currently seeking funding to develop Farmstarts in three Midlands counties.

We are currently undertaking a feasibility study for Nottinghamshire County Council, looking into the opportunities for Farmstarts to support food security and wellbeing across the county. This is very exciting – a UK first we believe! It will build on the brilliant work started in Nottingham by our UAC collaborator Bethan McIlroy. July 2023

If you would like to be involved in a regional Farmstart process like this, with other places. Please get in touch.