Farm walk: Growing Well and Low Sizergh Farm

Hosted by Growing Well and Low Sizergh Farm

Growing Well Kendal and Low Sizergh Farm are both based from the Sizergh Estate in Kendal.

Growing Well Kendal is a mental health charity, training centre and the biggest producer of organic vegetables in Cumbria. Between Monday and Thursday every week Growing Well open their doors to members of the community who have been referred via their GP due to their mental health to learn how to grow, sew, hoe and much more to provide veg boxes for the local community ‘crop share’ with a friendly team of volunteers at hand. The lead growers at the site will be able to walk you around the 8-year crop rotation on site and talk you through why organic practices are so important to them and the amazing progress they have made in the past few years.

Low Sizergh Farm is a working farm still run by three generations of the family. Alison can be found running the farm shop, gift gallery and café, whilst her brother Richard (who will be leading the tour) runs the farm with his son Matthew.  John jokes that he’s now the farm boy sent to run all the errands and Marjorie spends as much time as possible painting in her shed. More than 50 local people are employed with Paul Seward working on the farm for nearly 30 years. They do everything with the future in mind, looking after the soil, the landscape and wildlife whilst being part of a vibrant rural economy. Their main crop is the grass that the cows eat all year round which helps them produce milk that they sell in the shop vending machine, the organic milk suppliers cooperative OMSCO and a local cheese and ice cream maker.

A point of interest would be how the farm started out as organic, changed to non-organic practices then back to organic for an array of reasons you’ll be able to discover on the tour.

You will need to book places on this walk separately. More information will be sent to all ticket-holders. There is additional information about Low Sizergh Farm below.

Low Sizergh Farm is a working farm still run by three generations of the Park family. They do everything with the future in mind, looking after the soil, the landscape and wildlife whilst being part of a vibrant rural economy.

Milk is sold through a vending machine outside the farm shop, the organic milk suppliers cooperative OMSCO and to a local cheese and ice cream maker.

Cows Youngstock:  168 Holstein x Swedish Red x Montbeliarde 109 Young
stock, cross breeding for 20 years with a strong emphasis on healthy cows and milk from forage.

Autumn block calved over 12 weeks

Grassland management:

All grazing is rotational, dairy cow platform split into 33 paddocks 1.45 HA 12-hour breaks, YS moved daily fields splitusing electric fences, front and back, with mobile water troughs. Sheep moved weekly.

Dry cows are mob grazed over parkland and permanent pasture.

Re seeding cow grazing with simple herbal ley ryegrass white & red clover chicory & plantain. Silage ryegrass red clover chicory and plantain. still experimenting to find the best mix, 4 cuts of silage and round bales from surplus grass on grazing area.

Arable:  Spring barley and peas for whole crop on a 4-year rotation over the silage area

Conservation work:

  • Traditional hedge management
  • Re-planting of orchards with local varieties of apple, damson, plum
  • Creation of pond
  • Fencing off less useful grassland for wildlife habitat farm trail
  • HLS scheme ends Jan 22 considering the options

A point of interest would be how the farm started out as organic, changed to non-organic practices then back to organic after trainings in Holistic management and farm scale permaculture see how these practices have been incorporated in the farms management on the tour.



FarmStart: Support and progress in the north

Hosted by the Urban Agriculture Consortium and the Landworkers’ Alliance

The Urban Agriculture Consortium (launched in summer 2020) has rapidly established itself as an innovative part of the emerging regenerative agroecology movement. The Urban Agriculture Consortium has joined forces with The Landworkers’ Alliance to set up and coordinate a series of workshops to support an emerging cluster of FarmStart projects across the north.

This session will describe the experiences to date, and will explore emerging opportunities to embed and promote further agroecological FarmStarts across the UK.

We hope the session will inspire further FarmStarts in other parts of England and Wales in 2022, potentially with DEFRA support.

People will gain an insight into the rapidly establishing movement of urban FarmStarts and collaborations between local, regional and national partners.

Speakers/hosts include:

Maddy Longhurst – Maddy has always followed her instincts to work on initiatives and ideas that lie in the fertile margins and serve future generations. Recently this has involved the protection of land and soils, community-led thermal imaging of cold homes, Ecosystem Restoration Design, creating regenerative Tiny House Settlements, Sociocracy and Gleaning training for communities. Maddy worked on Phase 1 of the urban agriculture project in 2019, and is now co-coordinating the Urban Agriculture Consortium.

Fran Halsall – After a decade-long career as a landscape photographer and writer, Fran completed an MA in landscape architecture at the University of Sheffield. She has been involved in the creation of three community growing spaces in Sheffield: the Kenwood Community Growers; the Food Work’s farm and the Regather community garden. Fran is ShefFood’s Urban Agriculture Co-ordinator, leading on Sheffield’s participation in the national Fringe Farming and Urban Agriculture Consortium programmes.

Hatty Richards – Hatty’s background is in project development, management and fundraising within the community sector, mostly related to bicycles and community supported agriculture. She has also spent years grafting out on the fields and hosting different groups on the land to learn about and take part in growing.

Giving farmers and growers a fairer share of the price of produce by building short food supply chains

Hosted by the Open Food Network

You will hear from a some of the farmers, growers and food hub managers who are using the Open Food Network to make direct selling links between the people producing the food and the eaters and buyers.

We will then open the discussion for participants to explore how they can join this growing network and in the process not only make their production enterprises more viable but also help to build fairer, more resilient and more environmentally sound food systems.

Speakers/hosts include:

Nick Weir – Nick is a part time grower on a CSA project. He is a founder of Stroudco Food Hub. He now works closely with farmers and growers to support them to make best use of the Open Food Network to build effective local food systems that are financially, environmentally and socially effective.

Nick believes that if we are going to build better food systems then we need to build those systems with tools which are fundamentally different from the tools used to build the current, broken, mainstream food system. This means that we need open source tools like the Open Food Network which are in common ownership and are controlled by the community of farmers, growers and community food enterprises.

Abi Morden – Abi is a founder member of Propagate and a seasoned food activist. She has been working across community and local food projects for over 20 years, and is passionate about food sovereignty and resilience. An experienced grower, facilitator, practitioner and researcher – Abi’s inclusive and collaborative attitude encourages everyone to be involved in thinking about and creating sustainable food systems. Abi is co-founder of Glasgow Food Policy Partnership, and the Dumfries and Galloway Sustainable Food Partnership (after moving to D&G last year) and holds an MSc in Food Security.

Rachel Gambro – Rachel is based in Aberdeenshire and is one of the 25 Food Tourism Ambassadors, recently appointed by Scotland Food and Drink, tasked to inspire food tourism growth in the area. In addition, she is leading the Rural Food Tourism Places project in Shetland, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which focuses on collaboration and diversification opportunities within the crofting industry.

Rachel also runs a local community group called the Mixing Bowl Aberdeen whose objective, prior to the pandemic, was to bring people together to share their passion for good food. This was done through talks, tastings, demonstrations and very popular cooking workshops where local residents were encouraged to share favourite recipes

In addition to the regular monthly events, the Mixing Bowl organised and ran the annual Deeside Local Food Festival which attracted over 3500 visitors, showcased over 70 Aberdeen City and Shire food and drink businesses and facilitated over £55K of local produce and street food sales.

During lockdown, as a Covid resilient solution to the festival, the Deeside Food Hub was born and continues to offer a fortnightly local produce market featuring over 150 products from more than 20 producers using the Open Food Network platform.

Cinderwood Market Garden: A review of year one

Hosted by Cinderwood Market Garden

Cinderwood is a one acre market garden in Cheshire built upon a relationship between a grower and a chef who believe in farming food for flavour. Produce is grown all year round in polytunnels and in the field using regenerative farming methods and supplies over fifteen restaurants, bakeries and delis in the Manchester area with produce harvested less than 24hrs before delivery. The panel session will re-live the successes and challenges faced within the first year of operation and sharing our learning with those who attend.



Speakers/hosts include:

Michael Fitzsimmons – Michael is a Liverpool-born market gardener who trained at The Organic Farm Shop in the Cotswolds. Since completing his growing apprenticeship in 2017 he has interned at Relæ’s Farm of Ideas in Copenhagen and worked as the Assistant Grower at two-Michelin starred restaurant Moor Hall in Lancashire. He is passionate about growing with care for the land and closing the gap between farm and table. Michael started Cinderwood Market Garden in October 2020.

Joseph Otway – Joseph is a chef based in Manchester who operates Higher Ground, Flawd Wine and Cinderwood Market Garden. He has previously cooked at agriculturally focused restaurants Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Relæ and Where The Light Gets In in Stockport.

Daniel Craig Martin – Daniel is the co-owner of Higher Ground and Flawd Wine in Manchester and Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire. He has previously worked at Noma in Copenhagen and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.

Richard Cossins – Richard is the co-owner of Higher Ground and Flawd Wine in Manchester and Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire. He has previously worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and for Simon Rogan in the UK.

Why is seed sovereignty important?

Hosted by the Charlie Gray.

We heard from people involved in the Seed Sovereignty movement in the UK and explored why seed sovereignty is important, how Gaia’s seed sovereignty programme is supporting the movement and considered next steps.

There were short presentations/outlines to set the scene on the current state of politics, ethics, technical and legal situation for seed and why it is so important for our food systems and community resilience.

We heard from Sinead Fortune the Programme Manager for the Seed Sovereignty Programme, UK & Ireland, Pippa Chapman of thoseplantpeople, a small-holder, master horticulturist, organic gardener and grower and Charlie Gray, Northern Regional Coordinator for the Seed Sovereignty Programme and Maria Scholten the Highlands and Islands Scotland Coordinator.


Charlie Gray is the Coordinator for North England and has been working on food systems for more than 10 years in Yorkshire, supporting community growers and connecting with allotmenteers and farmers. She is based at Horton Community Farm Cooperative where she coordinates seed-saving and co-founded and works cooperatively with various food organisations locally as well as permaculture networks nationally. She is an ethnobotanist by training and interested in the power of seed sovereignty to transform food systems and build community resilience. As a Yorkshire plant-based eater particularly loves all manner of leafy vegetables and broccoli (fortunately)!

Sinéad Fortune supports the Gaia Foundation’s Seed Sovereignty programme, UK & Ireland at a national and international level. This includes engaging with advisors on legislation, coordinating the overall framework of the programme, creating opportunities for engagement and education, and developing partnerships with key organisations. With a background in food security, community empowerment and social enterprise, Sinéad’s previous work has been in community-based food production, sustainable food innovation and community funding.

Pippa Chapman has worked as Head Gardener of a large private estate, in public and private gardens, developed a huge range of skills and experience of many shapes, sizes and styles of garden. She has been researching good sustainable horticultural practice for many years now both during her Permaculture Design Course at the University of Bradford and the Diploma in applied Permaculture. At Fern Cottage she is developing mixed edible and flowering herbaceous borders. As well as propagating for their plant nursery, from which they sell plants to the public and for use in the gardens they create and manage, Pippa and her husband live with their children and grow their own food on their smallholding. This is on a north facing steep slope in West Yorkshire. They have been trialling and breeding different fruit and vegetable varieties, including trialling breeding blight-resistant potatoes, new squash varieties and experimenting with lots of regenerative techniques as well as saving seeds from their trials.

Richie Walsh, Regional Coordinator for Lowland Scotland joined the team in June 2020 as the Lowlands Scotland Seed Sovereignty Coordinator. He has an academic background in amenity horticulture, market gardening and plant conservation. He works professionally in the field of horticultural therapy and is a keen amateur botanist specialising in the heather family native to Europe. He has a passion for community food growing. Over the last decade, he has set up and run community gardens in Dublin, Amsterdam and Glasgow. When not digging in a garden or wandering and botanising in the countryside, Richie can be found brewing his own beer, mead and hedgerow wines.

You can read a blog post about the outcomes of the session here.

Alternatives to contentious inputs in organic horticulture

Hosted by Dennis Touliatos and colleagues at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University.

This session was an open discussion about the challenges that organic vegetable growers face in terms of crop inputs. Particularly contentious inputs include peat for growing media, plastic for mulching, fertilisers derived from non-organic production and overall, the dependence on off-farm inputs. Although these issues are widely known, contentious inputs are often used because there are a lack of alternatives, or they are more expensive.

At the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University we are currently investigating peat-free alternatives, fossil-fuel free plastic alternatives, and plant-based fertilisers for organic growers as part of the European Horizon 2020 project ‘Organic-PLUS’.

This session discussed findings and exchanged knowledge and experiences with vegetable growers in the North of England and Scotland on contentious inputs and what they use (or do not use) and why. Participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas and insights, learn from each other and explore contentious inputs in organic horticulture and the implications of phasing them out.


Dennis Touliatos is an agronomist working on the European Horizon 2020 project ‘Organic-PLUS’, investigating fossil-fuel free plastic alternatives, peat-free alternatives and plant-based fertilisers for organic growers.
He also co-manages the ‘Lancaster Seed Library’, a seed saving project which focuses on collecting, saving and distributing locally adapted seeds, and reskilling local growers in seed saving. Dennis also sits on the management committee of ‘Claver Hill Community Food Project’, a peri-urban farm based in Lancaster, UK that uses no-dig methods to produce an abundance of organic vegetables.

Judith Conroy is a researcher at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience with a background in organic horticulture. Her research focuses on organic and other sustainable growing systems with a particular interest in the value of these spaces for pollinating insects. Judith’s primary role is Project Manager of Organic-PLUS, an EU Horizon 2020 project comprising 25 partner institutions, investigating alternatives to contentious inputs in organic agriculture across Europe. Judith is also active in the project’s SOIL workpackage, trialling replacements and phase-out pathways for peat, plastic mulch and animal manure. Judith worked on the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Blooms for Bees’, a popular project which created an app to help gardeners identify and record Bumblebees (Bombus spp.). Her work with bumblebees continues in TRUE, an EU Horizon 2020 project where she is exploring bumblebee preferences in heritage legume varieties. Judith has also contributed to citizen science research to identify ornamental plants at risk of becoming invasive.

Dr Francis Rayns has 30 years’ experience in agroecological research, specialising in the sustainable management of soil fertility, particularly concerning the use of green manure crops and the utilisation of waste materials in the form of soil amendments such as compost, anaerobic digestate and biochar. As well as in-depth replicated experiments this has involved on-farm participatory research methodology to maximise the relevance and impact of his work. He is currently a key researcher within the Organic-PLUS project that is concerned with developing alternatives to contentious inputs, in organic agriculture – this includes developing alternatives to the use of conventional animal by-products for crop fertilization.

You can read a blog post about the outcomes of the session here.

New entrant support for farmers: The Farmstart Model

Hosted by the Landworkers Alliance with the Kindling Trust, Manchester and the Lancaster FarmStart scheme.

New entrants into farming face many barriers, including access to land, high set up costs and a lack of appropriate training. This session will focus on new entrant support for farmers in the north, learning from incubator farms from across the UK.

The session will cover:
– The definition, purpose, benefit and challenges of the FarmStart approach
– An outline of the current policy landscape/campaigns for support for new entrant farmers
– An overview of schemes in the UK and their different approaches
– Two northern case studies of FarmStart training schemes – the very well established Kindling Trust programme in Greater Manchester and the new Lancaster FarmStart scheme to be run at The Plot
– A chance to discuss and explore the barriers and opportunities for creating further FarmStart programmes as a way of building local supply chains/meaningful employment/local food etc


Steph Wetherell is the Farm Start Network Coordinator for the Landworkers’ Alliance, working to build a network of farms and organisations offering farm-start opportunities. She is also the Media and Comms Coordinator for the LWA and runs the mentoring programme. She also writes about food and farming for a number of different websites and magazines, working to connect people with where their food comes from.

Helen Woodcock is a founding member of Greater Manchester’s Kindling Trust – working to create a fairer, more sustainable food system for Manchester and beyond. Over the last 13 years Helen has helped establish Kindling’s practical initiatives including our FarmStart programme, to encourage and support a new generation of organic growers; Woodbank Community Food Hub; and Kindling’s sister co-operatives Manchester Veg People and Veg Box People, to create fairer markets for organic growers and make local organic food accessible to all. Helen is currently focused on establishing the Kindling Farm, a 100+ acre organic agroforestry farm for the Northwest.

Ellen Pearce has been coordinating FarmStart work in Lancaster for the last 3 years, undertaking a feasibility study, pilot programme and setting up a local funding scheme for the project. She co-chairs the Food and Economy working group for FoodFutures, North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Network and coordinates the Northern Real Farming Conference.

Organic at the heart: Developing an agroecological food and farming network in Northern England

Hosted by the Organic Research Centre team.

One of the key components of a transition to agroecological food and farming systems is the need to move away from input-intensive systems and towards knowledge-intensive systems. Agroecology must cover everything from food production to the protection of healthy socioeconomic relationships. This session aimed to bring together interested parties from across the food and farming sector who are already practicing forms of agroecology. Our objective was to explore the establishment of a research and knowledge exchange network in the region that could grow around testing and sharing our experiences of working towards the Organic Principles of health, ecology, fairness and care in full crop-rotation economies. At the Organic Research Centre, our work is embedded in a real-life context via engagement with farmers and other stakeholders throughout the research process. We also run a knowledge exchange programme, including the wide-reaching Agricology network and platform. Working with Organic Farmers & Growers C.I.C and Newcastle University, we hosted this session for anybody interested in being part of a collaborative network that supports the real research and development needs of the food and farming sector in the North of England.


Charlotte Bickler leads the Knowledge Exchange and Policy team at the Organic Research Centre, ensuring that ORC’s research gets out to its key stakeholders in the best format possible. She is based in West Yorkshire and has worked as a researcher at the ORC, Kew Gardens and The University of Bristol. Her research has focused on aiming to understand how ecological and evolutionary responses can be quantified to promote their successful integration in land management for agricultural productivity, sustainability, and conservation. Most recently, working on the EU project LIVESEED (liveseed.eu/), she has studied the application of evolutionary breeding within organic systems and developed an on-farm organic variety testing network (now a DEFRA funded project, LiveWheat) with her ORC Crops Team colleagues, Organic Arable (organicarable.co.uk/) and a group of participatory farmers. She has also coordinated Knowledge Exchange and on-farm trials of crop mixtures as part of the EU project DIVERSify (plant-teams.eu/). She hopes her work contributes towards bridging the gap between knowledge development and its application and use in a practical setting.

Amelia Magistrali is a post-doctoral researcher at Newcastle University who has spent the past five years assessing the potential of and developing supply chains for alternative grain production in North East England. As a PhD researcher, Amelia studied spelt and rye variety performance with alternative fertilisers as part of the EU HealthyMinorCereals project (healthyminorcereals.eu/) and the DEFRA Sustainable Intensification Platform (www.siplatform.org.uk/). Amelia currently works with Coastal Grains Ltd (coastalgrainsltd.co.uk/), a grain co-operative in Northumberland, on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to develop supply chains for novel grain production. Through the project, she works with farmers to trial commercial production of spelt, buckwheat and rye varieties, which has resulted in a well-established supply chain for regional spelt production and additional avenues for buckwheat and rye in the UK.

Steven Jacobs has been working in food and farming for 30 years, starting in market gardening and moving through farming to retail via catering. Following work with the Permaculture Association, the Co-operative Wholesale Society, Fresh & Wild (now Wholefoods Market) and Essential Trading Co-operative, Steven joined Organic Farmers & Growers in 2007. Steven represents OF&G on a number of roundtables, forums and working groups: Agricology, IFOAM EU, the NFU Organic Forum and the Agriculture Working Party of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. Steven is the founder and coordinator of the annual organic farming conference, the OF&G National Organic Combinable Crops, also known as NOCC. Steven chairs the Welsh Grain Forum and also sits on the steering committee for the Wales Real Food and Farming Conference – WRFFC / Cynhadledd Gwir Fwyd a Ffermio Cymru – CGFFfC and Food Manifesto Wales.

Janie Caldbeck co-ordinates, creates and edits the content (ranging from a library of resources to videos, blogs, podcasts and farmer profiles) held on the Agricology website, working closely with researchers, farmers and others from within the industry to make it a valuable knowledge hub for sustainable farming practices. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing and a BSc Hons in Horticulture for which she specialised in ethnobotany (global plant use) and science communication. She has conducted research in a range of areas including CO2 emissions in relation to drainage of peatlands, the use of biochar as a soil management tool, building fertility using clover and legumes, medicinal uses of trees, and ways in which trees can be integrated into farms and farming practices. She previously worked as a technical writer alongside the ORC research and information teams (on the LegLINK and OSCAR projects), the Institute of Organic Training and Advice (IOTA), and partners on the on-line Ecofarming information hub. She works remotely for the ORC, based at her home near the infamous Barnard Castle in Teesdale, Co. Durham, on the edge of the north Pennines.

You can read a blog post about the session outcomes here.