The story of Moss Brook Growers - how to set up a horticultural enterprise from scratch

This manual gives a step by step guide to how Moss Brook Growers set up a mixed horticultural social enterprise from scratch. It will be invaluable reading to any group or individual looking to grow and sell fruit and vegetables.


This manual gives a step by step guide to how Moss Brook Growers set up a mixed horticultural social enterprise from scratch. It will be invaluable reading to any group or individual looking to grow and sell fruit and vegetables.

Moss Brook Growers is a pioneering new farming business that aims to develop a model for a low-carbon urban food supply. It offers consumers produce that is fresh, local, and organic. Addressing every aspect of food production and supply, the growers that make up the Moss Brook Growers co-operative aim to be able to offer the most sustainably produced vegetables in Greater Manchester. They aim to do this by creating habitats that encourage biodiversity, rotation-based organic production methods, and applying sustainable practices to other aspects of their work including a compost toilet and biodiesel delivery van.

Key to their work is the provision of learning opportunities. We want to use our work as a means of reconnecting local people to their food. Moss Brook Growers wants people to understand about provenance and production and to be able to make informed food choices. They are doing this through encouraging volunteers to work alongside the growers on the site as well as holding open days for local people to visit and learn about growing. In the future they hope to develop more formal training courses for new growers.

Moss Brook Growers  Moss Brook Growers  Moss Brook Growers  Moss Brook Growers

Moss Brook Growers holds a 10-year lease on 21 acres of Grade 2 agricultural land at Glazebury, Lancashire, just to the west of Manchester. Unicorn Grocery, one of the largest and most successful wholefood outlets in the UK, a workers’ co-operative, owns the land that Moss Brook Growers farm and provide them with their main outlet. Moss Brook Growers have however developed some other interesting outlets and they are a founder member of Manchester Veg People - a growers’ and buyers’ co-operative founded in 2011 that already includes amongst its customers the University of Manchester.

In 2009 Moss Brook Growers secured a grant from the Big Lottery’s Making Local Food Work programme via the Food Supply and Distribution strand of that programme, coordinated nationally by Sustain. This two-year grant provided critical revenue and capital funding to get the project started. By September 2011, when the Making Local Food Work grant ended, the project had already accrued some significant achievements including:

  • Over 7 tonnes of sustainably produced food had been grown and sold, with volumes trebling between the first and second growing seasons
  • An estimated 16,000 people had eaten produce grown at the site
  • 75 volunteers had worked at the site

This report describes in detail what they have done and what they continue to do in setting up and running the vegetable growing business.

"We hope this will be useful to anyone else thinking of starting a similar project, and may inspire others to join in with building the movement to reclaim our food system and make it more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable."
Rob Alderson, author of the report and founder member of the Moss Brook Growers co-operative

Report contents

Overview

  • Who we are
  • The site
  • The development of the project
  • Progress so far
  • The aim of this report
  • Our approach / aims
  • Business structure
  • Business plan
  • The costs and the alternatives 

Financing

  • Fundraising 
  • Accounts 
  • End of year process 
  • Payroll 
  • Other considerations 
  • Running costs 

Crop planning

  • Weighing up the factors 
  • Our rotation 
  • Annual crop planning 
  • Costs of production 
  • Record keeping and analysis 

Growing and machinery 

  • Building and maintaining fertility 
  • Step-by-step of growing 
  • Our machinery & equipment 
  • Buying machinery and equipment 
  • Issues 

Recommended books and resources

Infrastructure 

  • Overview 
  • Access 
  • Hardstanding and track improvements 
  • Drainage 
  • Water and irrigation 
  • Buildings 
  • Electricity 
  • Security 

Recruitment and labour 

  • Issues that we have faced 
  • Forward planning 
  • Volunteers 
  • Training 
  • Health and safety 

Habitat improvement, open days and  school visits 

  • Open days 
  • School visits 
  • Feedback & recording 

Appendices (downloadable templates, provided as a .zip file)

  • Business plan
  • Actual yearly forecast
  • Template monthly forecase
  • Crop areas template
  • Customer volumes value template
  • Seed options template
  • Soil preparation plan template
  • Harvesting risk assessment
  • Open Day feedback form
  • School Visit feedback form
  • Volunteer feedback form

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15/05/2012
Making Local Food Work

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