The programme involves classroom training covering the key topics for commercial scale organic growing – ranging from building and maintaining soil health, to managing pests and diseases in an organic system to crop planning for a commercial scale. 

We also get you thinking about the other side of running your own business, from pricing to book keeping to working with volunteers. You then get to put all this into practice by working alongside an experienced grower in the field for the year. This is not only to help you learn more about growing, but to give you a realistic experience of life as a commercial grower, to help you decide if this is for you.

At Abbey Leys FarmStarters take on up to ¼ acre sections to trial their growing skills and business ideas. If they prove viable, they can expand each year. Some growers work on their own, others with friends or family, and depending on what they grow, spend anything from a few hours to a couple of days each week tending their crops. [Abbey Leys is being put on hold for now whilst we give it some well earned TLC].

FarmStart is a grower-member of Manchester Veg People, supplying veg to restaurants and institutions throughout Greater Manchester, as well as to our sister co-operative Veg Box People. We also supply Abbey Leys Farm Shop and Farmers Market and Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton.

Around twenty people have participated in the FarmStart programme over the last 5 years, many going on to jobs with existing growers, growing on other sites or to work in a range of other exciting food related projects.

The FarmStart programme will run at Woodbank Nursery in 2019, a 1½ acre site based in the heart of Stockport, home to a variety of growing projects. Encompassing two large polytunnels, Woodbank aims for year round production and specialises in tender crops grown under cover, for example early peas and tomatoes and cucumbers during the summer and salad leaves during the winter. 


  • 1/4 acre plot 
  • mentoring 
  • tuition 
  • access to markets


If you’re looking to make a gradual transition from community or allotment growing to commercial production, FarmStart offers the perfect opportunity to build up your skills and experiment with organic growing on a larger scale. It’s the UK’s very first farm incubator initiative!

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