Desperate to work on the land

15 January 2013

Young people are abandoning traditional office-based jobs in their droves and are seeking alternative career paths. For many the dream is to work on the land, but their lack of experience is a real stumbling block.

The Soil Association's new Future Growers Scheme addresses that problem, by bringing together highly skilled organic growers with a new generation eager to learn. Already there is a huge demand, with more than 500 people wanting to join the scheme.

Currently, practical training in organic crop production and horticulture is very limited and existing growers struggle to find suitably skilled staff. The Soil Association hopes that the new traineeship will reverse this trend. Future Growers offers a new six-month traineeship, as well as a two-year apprenticeship. The Soil Association’s organic apprenticeship is widely recognised as the gold standard in providing a comprehensive two-year training in organic horticulture, allowing apprentices to follow two whole growing seasons. However, demand for a shorter, starter course to give students a taste of organic growing, has led the Soil Association to develop an introductory six-month programme. During this time, trainees learn the basics of organic growing and decide whether they wish to take it further.  The new traineeship will allow more future growers to work alongside organic experts who are passionate about training the next generation and passing on their skills and knowledge. The traineeship is ideal for growers who are unable to offer a two year placement, allowing them to recruit seasonal staff who are committed to organic principles, keen to learn and eager to join the UK’s community of organic fruit and veg producers.

The Soil Association and its partner farmers and growers have trained more than 30 organic apprentices since it began. There is huge interest in organic growing, with more than 500 people signing up to find an apprentice or traineeship placement.
Both the traineeship and the apprenticeship involve:

  • participants being employed as organic growers
  • regular mentoring
  • a programme of farm-based seminars run by organic experts
  • farm walks and visits to learn from a variety of approaches and techniques
  • Soil Association producer membership

Growers who join the scheme must be able to pay a trainee a standard agricultural minimum wage and be willing to provide a rich learning environment with dedicated mentoring time. To find out more about the scheme visit


“We have a wealth of horticultural knowledge in this country which we are in danger of losing if we do not ensure it is passed down from one generation to the next. The Future Growers scheme enables new growers to work alongside highly skilled experts and learn the craft of growing as well as what is takes to make a business succeed.”
Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association.

“The apprenticeship scheme has given me the skills, knowledge and a network of support to make a successful career in organic farming at an exciting time for the industry.”
Kate Edwards, apprentice 2009, Swillington Organics

“The Soil Association apprentice scheme attracts the most enthusiastic young people, ready to invest their time and effort in return for an opportunity to learn. Our apprentice is now taking a leading role in the running of the farm.”
Martin Soble, Whitethorn Farm, apprentice host


For more information and a package of photos contact
Rachel Harries, Soil Association tel 0117 987 4601
You can also follow me on Twitter: @rachel_harries

Notes to Editor

About the Future Grower’s Scheme:
The Soil Association’s Future Growers scheme offers work-based learning in organic fruit and vegetable production backed up by in-depth seminars at farms across the UK. The scheme offers a six month minimum traineeship or a two year apprenticeship – all delivered on organic farms with mentoring and support from expert organic growers.

About the Soil Association:
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, animals, people and the environment. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. To find out more visit 

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