A staggering 55% of farmers in Europe are over the age of 55, and a distinct lack of young people are stepping in to fill their shoes. Unless some of the problems facing new and young farmers, such as access to land and training, are addressed, we risk threatening our future food security. So what can be done to prevent the loss of these vitally important skills?

Nourish Scotland wants to help a new generation of local food producers to get growing – using existing growers to teach skills in production, marketing and business planning, and to provide mentoring for fledgling enterprises.

Many community gardens and food growing businesses are looking for skilled growers, but it can be difficult to get the training and experience needed to apply for this type of work. The New Farmer Programme is designed to fill that gap; offering a season’s work experience on a farm, croft or smallholding in Scotland, mentoring and support from an experienced grower, and the skills and experience needed for you to run your own local food enterprise.

Pete Ritchie, Director of Nourish Scotland, explains that “Building a sustainable, resilient food system in Scotland means changing the way we use our land, as well as changing our food habits, and the way we spend our public and private money. The New Farmer Programme will operate as a mutually supportive network, encouraging participants to see themselves as working together to change the food system. Access to land is always a problem, so we’re pleased to be working with Falkland Estate, which is making land available for new growers and hosting some of the teaching modules.”

This year’s programme will focus on fruit and vegetable growing, and will cover both practical training and basic theory, from using machinery correctly to understanding different soil types. There’s also a strong emphasis on running your own business and marketing your produce effectively. For information on how to apply, visit www.nourishscotland.org

Photograph by Nick Harris

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