Urban Growing

Are you interested in a career in food growing and horticulture?

By Alice Lee and Celia Briseid

We hear from Alice Lee, Celia Briseid and the team at Propagation Place at St Werburghs City Farm about opportunities for young people to gain real-life experience and career progression in this rewarding industry.

This year at Propagation Place we are shifting our focus more specifically towards employability, education and training for 18–24-year-olds and are therefore looking to reach a little deeper into our communities to find young people who have an unfulfilled passion for plants, or their advocates. Our goal is to support and encourage young people who may be marginalised into sustainable and meaningful long-term representation within the Horticulture and food growing sectors.  

Operating within 13 acres of allotments, Propagation Place is in its 7th year as a pioneering community business project run by St Werburghs City Farm. We grow and deliver approximately 100,000 ready-to-plant vegetable seedlings per year locally and nationally from our accessible poly-tunnel and community growing space, through on-site sales and an eCommerce website. Our aim is to help people across the UK to grow their own food by removing the need for propagation expertise or indoor growing space. Customers can also access informal education through our online and practical beginner’s gardening course, monthly recipes, online growing information, monthly blog, personal customer communications and via social media, all while supporting our grassroot community work. We hold a 4.9 review rating on Trustpilot. 

The farming, agriculture and horticulture industries have a widespread lack of racial diversity, and young people living in urban areas are rarely offered the opportunity to consider land-based careers. As such, the horticulture and land-based sectors are the least diverse sector in the UK, with 98.6% of farm managers and holders identifying as White British (Labour Force Survey, 2016).   

Furthermore, gardening education remains relatively exclusive when compared to other sectors with qualifications delivered almost exclusively by private or charitable institutions such as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and specialist agricultural colleges. Apprenticeships, volunteering and traineeships remain a crucial point of entry for many young adults while formally recognised accreditation remains limited both in scope and accessibility. 

In 2021, we undertook a six-month research project and identified five common employment barriers which may lead to systemic bias and lack of representation in certain demographics. These are:  

  1. Employers often require specialised secondary or further education and practical skills which may be difficult to access  
  2. There is a lack of signposting towards the sector for young people 
  3. Social and cultural biases which consider land-based jobs as less desirable or aspirational than other sectors, and starting wages lower than other sectors  
  4. Lack of access to land and thus prior experience of land-use (through volunteering or otherwise)   
  5. Funding constraints and existing work or personal commitments   

With this in mind, we have created the following opportunities in the hope that we can begin to give young people real-life experience and career progression in this amazingly rewarding industry!  

  • Seven-week traineeships through the summer for up to twelve 18–24-year-olds in collaboration with Qube Recruitment. There are four start dates to choose from – find out more on our website.
  • Up to five places on our weekly volunteer gardening course led by our current second-year Apprentice and skilled horticultural staff, which provide opportunities to gain horticulture skills, learn as a group and grow in confidence. Course begins 10th April 2023, weekly until the end of the year. 

All volunteers and trainees are also given free access to our ‘Vegetable Growing for Beginners’ complete online gardening course worth £90! 

Our track record and the speed with which we make progress show how it’s possible and necessary to address the systematic exclusion experienced by the young people we work with. 90% of the young people we’ve worked with over the past two years have moved into either full-time employment, education or training. Here are some quotes:  

“It’s not just the practical skills and knowledge that I have gained here, which are incredibly valuable, it’s also the life lessons that I will be forever grateful for.” 

“It massively improved my confidence and curiosity about food growing and horticulture, and really opened my eyes to the career opportunities I could pursue in those sectors.” 

“The 6-month placement gave me real insight into what aspects of the work I was most suited to and could potentially specialise in. It gave me a really invaluable experience in a sector where roles are limited or require more extensive training to access.” 

As well as horticulture, Propagation Place Social Enterprise and volunteering can also provide work experience in:  

  • Customer service  
  • Social media  
  • Administration, data entry and dispatch of customer orders  
  • Risk assessment, safeguarding and equity  
  • Community gardening and well-being 
  • Volunteer coordination 

We can also give you advice and training in PPE and tools, employability training CV and interviews, literacy and numeracy training, the opportunity to attend careers fairs and events, and to network with our partners at Bristol Food Producers.

Please get in touch at grow@swcityfarm.co.uk, call 0117 942 8241, or pop in to see us if you think you are or know a young person who might like to work with us this year, or if you represent an organisation that would like to partner with us to help tackle exclusion in land-based industries.

We look forward to hearing from you! 

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So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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