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Digging into Horticulture

Digging into Horticulture

UK grown vegetables are worth £1.3 billion annually while UK grown fruits are worth £695 million. These numbers have been steadily increasing over recent years, creating new opportunities. However, while the sector contributes considerably to our economy, there is a lack of new entrants into horticulture.

Across agriculture in general, around 60% of total labour is provided by the farmers themselves or their immediate family. A further 20% are regularly employed workers and around 15% are casual (non-regular or seasonal) workers.  In the fresh produce sector employment of non-UK labour has been expanding in recent years.

Of those regular and non-regular workers, less than 1% of the UK’s working population are employed in agriculture and this has continued to gradually decline over the past decade. The majority of horticultural workers are migrants, who may be unable to work in the UK following our exit from the European Union. Stronger training programmes are needed to bring UK workers into horticultural jobs and convince them that a career in horticulture could be a rewarding experience.

digging into soil with Sun in distance

The Soil Association, working as part of an industry initiative, wants to introduce new entrants to the possibilities and opportunities within large-scale horticulture. The goal is to highlight the innovative and exciting approaches that producers in the sector are increasingly adopting and create a better understanding of these businesses.

This project has been made possible by the funding of the Prince’s Countryside Fund and we are grateful for their support. Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010, the Fund helps to secure a brighter future for the British countryside and those who maintain it.

In the summer of 2017, we will be hosting two on-site study visits for people interested in finding out more about the employment opportunities in the sector. The first was held on the South Coast and the Isle of Wight in July. We took a group of new entrants to visit three different producers that grew a range of different plants from ornamentals to tomatoes and herbs. The students were able to see the opportunities within large-scale horticulture and to highlight the innovative and exciting approaches that producers in the sector are increasingly adopting.

The next study visit will be help on Sept 29th and 30th in Evesham. For the visit, we will collect you from the Worcester train station. There will be a morning grower visit with lunch, followed by an afternoon visit. In the evening, a focus group survey will be conducted before a group dinner. On the second day, there will be a morning grower visit with lunch before you are dropped back at the station. Food, accommodation and travel costs during the visit will be covered. Travel to and from the start point will not be covered.

Please fill in the application and send it to heldridge@soilassociation.org by Sept 8th. Successful candidates will be notified by Sept 15th.

The goal of these trip is to examine the student’s preconceptions of horticulture and provide them with real-life exposure to the sector. Our aim is to give the students a better understanding of the day-to-day functioning of large-scale horticulture and allow them to get their hands dirty. Following each visit, we conduct a focus group to better understand their attitudes towards the sector and towards their own careers. The outcome of these discussions will feed into our work on labour in the food and farming sector and will contribute to a forthcoming report.

If you, or anyone you know, are interested in getting involved in the project, please email heldridge@soilassociation.org