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Work placements update

micro herb growing

Above: work placement trainee Lewis Williams gets some expert advice on growing micro herbs from Katherine Langton at Langtons Farm.

Our on-farm work placements are now well under way, with trainee growers getting hands-on experience of the day-to-day tasks and planning required to run a successful regenerative horticulture enterprise.

Six of the five-day placements have been completed already, with a further six part-way through and 12 arranged for later this spring. For trainees, the placements are free, as we’re covering the cost thanks to funding from the Welsh Government Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.*

Lewis Williams, 38, from Blackwood, is part way-way through his placement at Langtons Farm in Crickhowell. He completed two of his five days there in January. And while the first day was spent largely learning the ropes, with owner Katherine and David showing him round their three-acre farm and the various work areas, the second day was fully hands-on, clearing a new work site, sowing soaked seeds for micro herbs and preparing and packing produce for the Langton’s weekly market stall and veg boxes.

Lewis, who completed an RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture in 2022 and is currently enrolled on the year-long Coppicing and Green Wood Trades course at Black Mountains College, is still working out what his future career will look like.

“At school I thought I’d do something with IT or languages, but I ended up with a degree in history and politics. I fell into managing bars and restaurants at uni, then after 10 years of that, I set up a graphic design studio with a colleague. By the time I left we had a team of 12 and it was really successful, but I’d given up the design side to manage the business and I missed the creativity.”

Lockdown gave him the opportunity to re-assess. “I moved back in with my parents and started working in their garden and found it really satisfying. And I started volunteering with Stump Up For Trees, the woodland creation charity in the Brecon Beacons. That kept me sane, and through conversations there I started learning about careers I’d never heard of when I was making decisions at school.

“I realised a lot of those jobs were more community-based, and that really appealed to me. It feels like that’s the way we should be living our lives: neighbours helping neighbours and keeping things local.

“I know now that I’d rather be outside all day than stuck at a desk. Plus I like the fact that with horticulture and woodland work, you can see what you’ve achieved at the end of the day.”

Not that Lewis’s accrued business skills will be wasted if he does move into horticulture full-time. As David says: “Good business skills are essential. People think farming and growing is just about the manual side. But you’re running a small business and often doing 10 different jobs in a day, from sales and marketing, to accounts, planning and customer relations, as well as all the hard graft. That’s why people often say that good farmers are usually very rounded as business people.”

Lewis is scheduled to return to Langtons in May, and is expecting equally diverse days. “I’ve been immersing myself in outdoor work for a while now, from planting trees to gardening jobs, so I have a good idea of how unglamorous it can be. It’s hard work, but it’s also very rewarding because you’re producing something real. So I’m really looking forward to the rest of the placement.”

As for anyone considering a move into horticulture, Katherine has this advice: “Before we started our farm, David and I basically spent three years watching all the amazing growers on Youtube: it’s a really valuable resource. But hands-on opportunities like this are great, too, because trainees experience real conditions, and when their days are spread over a few weeks or months, they get to see how a project develops. So I’d say learn as much as you can from different sources, and then do it!”

This support has been provided through the Co-operation and Supply Chain Development Scheme – CSCDS Innovative Approaches and Collaborative Growing.

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