What is Farmhands?
Farmhands is a volunteering and training programme at Kelmarna Gardens, taking place every Tuesday from 9am to 3pm for 16 weeks.
Through a combination of training sessions and hands-on working, participants will learn regenerative organic food growing skills, and gain experience suitable for application to anything from productive home growing to small-scale market gardening or farming.
The first Farmhands programme will begin on Tuesday 29 June 2021 with a limited group of participants.
Why have we created this programme?
Kelmarna currently hosts three volunteer sessions in the garden per week, on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. These are open sessions, and once registered, volunteers can attend whenever suits them.
The structure of the Farmhands programme will enable us to confidently invest more time and effort into upfront training for the volunteers enrolled, in the knowledge that they are committed to participating for the duration of the programme. This more intensive training will allow these volunteers to gain skills and experience much more quickly than through our open volunteer sessions.
Having a fixed group of committed volunteers each week will also help us to ensure the productivity of the gardens and continued supply of produce throughout the year.
The cohort nature of the programme, with the same group of volunteers learning and working together each week, will provide opportunities to form lasting social connections and learn from peers in the programme.
The Farmhands programme will replace the open volunteer session on Tuesdays, but we will continue to host open volunteer sessions on Fridays and Saturdays, for those who prefer a more flexible schedule, as we are keen to maintain low barriers to getting involved at Kelmarna.
Who is this for?
The programme is for anyone who is keen to fast-track their learning about regenerative organic food growing techniques, and happy to make some commitment in return.
You may be wanting to learn how to make your home garden more productive, thinking about a career in small scale market gardening or farming, or picking up skills for use in your future.
No previous gardening experience is required (though experienced gardeners are also welcome) - it is more important that you are enthusiastic, willing to learn, and keen to get your hands dirty.
What will I learn and do?
You will learn skills and gain confidence in many of the aspects involved in running a small market garden operation or production-focused home garden, including:
When does the programme run?
The first programme will begin on Tuesday 29 June 2021, and run for 16 weeks, with the final session taking place on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
We are asking that participants commit to attending all or nearly all of the sessions. We appreciate that you may have a holiday booked, or unavoidable absences that might come up, but the expectation is that you would otherwise intend to come each week. If that doesn’t sound realistic for you, our open volunteer days may be more suitable for you.
Depending on how the first edition runs, we hope to run the programme continuously, with three cohorts each year. We expect the second edition of the programme to begin in October 2021.
What happens after the programme?
We hope that many of the Farmhands graduates will continue to be involved at Kelmarna after the 16 weeks are complete, with many potential roles open to you.
This could be leading sub-groups of volunteers on our open volunteer days, supporting our staff on other days of the week, working alongside our therapeutic gardeners, volunteering with our education programme, assisting with livestock care, or taking ownership of new or distinct projects.
Equally we hope that many graduates will take the skills learned here and spread them around by starting or joining projects elsewhere. We will be happy to provide references for Farmhands graduates to help you access your next opportunity.
How do I apply?
Applications are currently closed, and will reopen later in the year in advance of our next programme starting in October.
Please keep an eye on our email newsletter for updates on when applications will reopen - you can sign up for this on our home page here.
When applications are open, you just need to fill out our short application form to tell us something about yourself and why you’d like to take part in the programme.
If you haven’t volunteered with us previously, it would be a great idea to come and volunteer at one of our open gardening sessions (Fridays/Saturdays) before applying, to give you a feel for Kelmarna and the kinds of things we get up to here. Check out the Volunteer page for more info.
If you have any questions about the programme, just get in touch with us at hello@kelmarnagardens and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.