Guess how many commercial organic growers you can find within 10 miles of Manchester? A measly two, for a city of over a million people. That’s simply not good enough, you will agree. If you’ve kept an eye on land prices and agricultural policies in this country you’ll also know how hard it is to find the right piece of land and then turn it into a viable growing business. And if you’ve grown your own veg you are well aware that it’s hard work.
Local lass for local food
One person working hard to bring more fresh affordable food to Manchester is Lindsay Whalen.
She describes how she found her way into market gardening: “About 15 years ago I started writing about food politics, the harm our current food system is doing to the environment, and alternative organic and local systems. I began to wonder if I could be a grower myself. I went on the 2-year permaculture program in Kinsale, Ireland, and then spent the best part of 10 years becoming an organic grower.”
Eventually she set up Reddy Lane Market Garden in 2013, with the declared aim to supply Levenshulme Market, in an inner city area where access to fresh food can be very limited. In fact there wasn’t a stall selling fresh vegetables until Lindsay arrived four years ago.
Her stall is now a fixture at the market, and regular customers have been signing up to her weekly veg box scheme. She loves trading here; her happy customers and their positive feedback keep her going. According to Christine, the Market Manager, “Reddy Lane embody what Levenshulme Market was set up to do.”
Crisis as opportunity
Unfortunately Lindsay was given notice by her previous landlord last year. This could have been the end of Reddy Lane, but a number of friends and local customers rallied around Lindsay to support her in finding a new site and get it off the ground. Luckily, we had already set up a steering group to support Lindsay in dealing with the challenges of running her business, so when the time came for a land search we hit the ground running.
By the end of 2017 we had found a new site with very supportive owners. The land is also twice as big as the old site and much closer to the market and nearer to Lindsay’s home. A South facing patch of meadow just above the flood line and surrounded by trees, it has much going for it, including deep rich soil and an existing access track. After talking to growing experts we decided to take the plunge and develop the site as a No-Dig market garden.
No Dig for victory
We chose No Dig for a number of reasons. It can achieve high yields within a short set-up time. It also preserves and improves the soil by letting worms and fungi get on with their job. It also saves time and resources by reducing the need for weeding and irrigation.
As well as providing delicious food we want to measure what we grow to show just what it can achieve with this method. We want to write up and publish our results, and share our learning to show others the value of small scale farming. There will be open days, workshops, volunteer days and farm tours for the public.
We believe that No Dig will enable us to run a profitable market garden, something that most farms find elusive. By profitable, we mean pay the growers a living wage, not make mega bucks!
As well as looking after the land we find it important that local communities have a link to the place where their food comes from, get involved in growing and enjoy the health benefits that this connection to land and nature can offer.
In a world where small scale ecological farms are the only viable way to feed us in the long term, the political odds are still stacked in favour of agribusiness. To change this, we literally need to put our money where our mouth is and help small growers like Lindsay to get started.
What you can do to help
- Donate to our crowdfunder
- Share our appeal on social media #growlocal
- Find your nearest local grower, buy from them and offer them support
If you feel flush enough to put in some money individually and/or as a group that would be great. And of course we would like you to share our campaign with all your friends and networks. If you want any more info please get in touch!