Spotlight on Kindling Trust

Leonie Nimmo talks to Helen Woodcock from the Kindling Trust

Back in 2009, under the banner ‘Feeding Manchester’, Helen and others at the Kindling Trust began talking to a range of people to find out what the barriers were to accessing fresh, local, organic produce. They also asked local food producers about the problems they experienced. 

The Kindling team discovered lots of problems. They came up with a load of solutions. They must have worked really hard because they made multiple solutions happen. Today there are five projects all running alongside and supporting each other, forming a sustainable and cohesive response.

Feeding Manchester

Feeding Manchester is an online resource and the ‘one-stop-shop’ for Greater Manchester’s sustainable food movement. Since 2009, there have also been 15 Feeding Manchester gatherings, with people coming together for workshops, discussion groups and presentations. And, of course, to share amazing food.

Manchester Veg People

In 2011, Manchester Veg People, a co-operative of growers, buyers and workers, began trading. It turned the fundamental problem of the low prices typically received by growers on its head by allowing the growers to set the prices in advance.

The buyers, which include local restaurants, schools and the University of Manchester, do crop planning at the end of the year in time for the growers to plant their crops. They specify volumes, and need to be willing to pay the price of what it costs. Growers plant according to demand and harvest to order. 

“Then you get super-fresh food,” says Helen.

“It’s not been in storage or unnecessary transit. People absolutely love it.”

According to Helen, this involved facilitating long-term, behavioural change. Buyers could no longer order what they wanted for delivery the next day, but had to sit and plan menus and their buying months in advance, bearing in mind seasonal availability. Also, growers, so used to being treated badly by supermarkets, had to change their mindset and start to account for the real cost of production.

Veg Box People

Veg Box People is a workers’ co-op which is part of Manchester Veg People. It delivers vegetables (in bags) to local collection points.

“The idea came from supplying university staff”, explains Helen. “They started saying that they would like to take the produce home.”

The initial pilot project was set up based on the Growing Communities model in London, with collection points. 

“We do seasonal tasting sessions, a newsletter with recipes, take people out harvesting, do walks,” says Helen. “We invite people to farms. It’s not just about getting weekly veg, it’s about having a connection with growers. Also, meeting people at the collection points – getting people to engage. It’s not just about a different way of buying your veg but allowing people to be part of a wider system change in the food system.”

Image: Manchester Veg People

Veg Box People are also starting to work with different community groups – at a site in Stockport they are working with GPs and at a garden centre they deliver to a parent and toddlers’ group. 

“It shouldn’t just be a privilege to eat sustainable veg,” says Helen, “but a right”.

Read our feature on Veg Boxes schemes, how they have progressed and ethical ratings for the two main players Abel & Cole and Riverford.  

The Land Army

The Greater Manchester Land Army is an army of volunteers that go to farms during harvest season and weed, dig and plant. Over 500 volunteers have contributed over 3000 hours since the project was launched in 2011. 

“It helps growers at their busiest time, and gives volunteers practical experience,” says Helen. “It also introduces organic food growing as a career.”


During Kindling’s research, they realised that there were simply not enough growers. So, the question arose: “How do we support people to go into growing?”

Kindling set up Farmstart – the first organic incubator farm in the UK.

Image: FarmStart

“We need to keep the skills of local growers,” says Helen.

“The average age of growers is 54-58. We are losing skills. With all the talk of national and local independence, we can’t feed ourselves – we need to invest in new growers! If the government is not going to fund it or support it, consumers need to support it directly.” 

Become a subscriber today

Ethics made easy - comprehensive, simple to use, transparent and reliable ethical rankings. A wealth of data at your fingertips.

Only £29.95 for 12 months web access and the print magazine. Cancel via phone or email within 30 days for a full, no-questions-asked refund!

Start your subscription - find out more