As a nation, we have become increasingly disconnected from where our food comes from and how it grows. Over the last few decades, not enough emphasis has been placed on training the next generation of people to grow and raise our food. It is a sad fact that unless you have a farming background, it can be hard to find a route into this sector. Over the next few years, Regather, who run an organic farm in the Moss Valley, hopes to change that. They want to bring new jobs and enterprises to the local Sheffield economy.

Regather’s Training Pathways

Regather is a co-operative of local people working to increase community involvement in Sheffield’s food system and create employment. They run an organic farm, community projects and provide garden design services. But, they are most well-known for their organic veg and fruit box scheme. They care for the environment and the people in the community. This ethos focuses on more sustainably sourced food, locally-based economics and democratically controlled systems. 

Regather is working with the Urban Agriculture Consortium and the Landworkers Alliance to find solutions to this problem. Plus, they hope to open up training pathways for new entrants into farming and horticulture. Elsewhere in the UK, several Farmstarts have been set up to address the current gaps in nationwide provision for new entrants. 

Farmstarts are designed to move people with a passion for producing food to the next stages of professional development. Different Farmstarts offer varying levels of support based on local needs. However, they all provide access to land and equipment, routes to market and business support, training and/or mentoring. There are currently five operating throughout the UK; Kindling Trust in Manchester, Tamar Grow Local in the Tamar Valley (Devon & Cornwall), OrganicLea in London, Mach Maethlon in Machynlleth (Wales) and LESS in Lancaster. Sheffood and Regather want Sheffield to benefit from a similar organisational approach

Ready for Your Role?

So, what’s the first step in the plan? Regather is researching how such a scheme could work in Sheffield. They are currently conducting a feasibility study to open up routes into horticulture and farming in Sheffield. As part of this research, they want to hear from individuals and community groups who are serious about joining the next generation of urban farmers and market gardeners. They have developed a survey called “Do you want to feed Sheffield?” for those interested in working within the industry.

The survey is for anyone or any group thinking about setting up a food production business following sustainable principles. You can respond as an individual, on behalf of a small business and/or social enterprise or a community group. If you are not currently living in or around Sheffield but would consider basing yourself here to develop a food business, they would still like to hear from you.

Regather understands that access to land and related facilities are the most significant barriers to growing food. This information will help Regather make a stronger case for unlocking land around the city for food production. Furthermore, it will hopefully bring people a step closer to realising their career ambitions.

If you are interested in finding out more and taking part in the survey, visit Regather’s website at; https://regather.net/training-pathways. If you know someone or an organisation who might be interested, please help us spread the word. Let them know about this survey so that it reaches far and wide.