Nine years ago, we were looking for our first opportunity as new entrants into horticulture. There were then, and still are now, two major barriers for new entrant farmers and growers; the lack of appropriate learning opportunities and access to land. 

We were lucky in that I had been brought up on an organic council owned smallholding from which my parents ran one of the earliest box schemes in the country, so I absorbed a huge amount of knowledge as I was growing up. We were also very fortunate to find Trill Farm, where we could start our own business on land with much of the main infrastructure for running a market garden already there. As a result, we had a great place to run our market garden, but also a good base of knowledge from which to start.

I had also studied Horticulture at Reading University, but what good that served me for starting my own market garden I am not quite sure; it was a great four years but it was focused on research and theory, a lot of which was out of date. I was also more inspired at that time to focus on historical garden restoration and that was the path that I followed whilst at University and for the two years after graduating.

Many others who wish to start a career in organic horticulture do not have access to the opportunities that I did. However, we run market gardening traineeships at Trill to provide a practical learning experience appropriate for people who wish to work at or run their own market garden.

We encourage trainees to stay for two seasons, each of 9 months long. This gives the opportunity to really get to grips with the technical side of market gardening and the chance to see two seasons, which can be completely different. We are also part of a network of around 10-15 farms, each of whom train growers. We work collaboratively so that trainees can have exchanges and learn through a series of training days at other farms to broaden their experiences.

We are seeking funding for this network so that the trainers can be paid for their time, but also so that the training days and exchanges can be covered to make it more accessible. We are working alongside The Landworkers’ Alliance to give better opportunities for new entrants into farming and growing – not only in terms of the training that is available, but also the opportunities of access to land and start up capital. After meetings with Defra this Spring, we hope to see more support from the government to continue this work and spread it out across the UK. It will lead to more efficient, productive farms as new entrants will not have to go through so many years of trial and error, making the same mistakes that more experienced farmers and growers have made.

Many other countries take food production more seriously than we do in the UK, and their governments work to support new entrants and ensure that appropriate training and financial support is available for those who wish to receive it. We hope that the UK government will follow in their footsteps, but if not, we will continue to do what we can with limited time and funds.

Ash and Kate run Trill Farm Garden, supplying the Old Dairy Kitchen and many other local restaurants with fresh, seasonal and varied produce.