Job seekers have a chance to learn gardening and cooking skills and gain valuable experience at Bosavern Community Farm in West Penwith

Photos courtesy of Bosavern Community Farm

February 2022: “Can we do it now – and if not, can we do it soon?” This is the question everyone at Bosavern Community Farm asks themselves about everything they do. It is 10 years now since the former Cornwall Council farm at St Just was acquired for the community. “The aim was to grow produce which could be packed in veg boxes and sold at farmers’ markets,” says training and project co-ordinator Katie Kirk. “Eighty to 100 boxes now go out every week, and people can also pick them up at the farm.  As well as vegetables, we grow salad leaves and herbs, and redcurrants and blackcurrants. We have 400 free range chickens, and several beehives, from which we collect honey to sell in our shop.”

Bosavern’s staff are supported by volunteers and a board of management, and all, says Katie, are ‘bursting with enthusiasm’ for the ambitious project. Her own role is to lead courses which offer hands-on experience for people not in work, and the latest sessions are about to begin. Participants receive full training in growing, cooking and retail, plus mentoring support, help with CVs and job applications, and introductions to potential employers.

The latest course, funded by the EU with support from Cornwall Council, begins on 2nd February, and runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 11 weeks. It is open to anyone unemployed and actively looking for work, who is of working age (18 to early 60s) and lives in West Penwith or west of the A30 between Long Rock and Lelant.

“With previous courses, we’ve had people from a wide range of backgrounds,” says Katie.  “Some want to upskill, because they’re looking for a new area of work. Many have some level of anxiety and are interested in trying different activities.

“One young lady had worked in the care sector, but it had become overwhelming for her.  She had done tree-planting, and was interested in conservation, so we introduced her to some local organisations, and helped her to get a job at Kehelland Horticultural Centre.  Another trainee was a biology graduate with mild autism who lacked confidence. He’s now working at Trenow Fields market garden, and doing freelance work as a gardener.

“One chap wanted to work with animals. He helped look after our chickens, and was interested in working at a local farm which breeds birds of prey. We helped him to put together a CV, and he works there now.”

Bosavern has continued to expand its range of activities. “We’ve got a wildflower meadow, allotments and a community woodland, where saplings are being planted. Some fields have been left alone, and have become a perfect habitat for wildlife. There’s a kestrel which we often see flying overhead, and we’ve got a nesting box to attract barn owls.”

Regular open days are held, along with visits from schools, and work at the farm has continued throughout the pandemic. “Some of our elderly volunteers stopped coming, but we were able to work in smaller groups. And suddenly we had huge demand for veg boxes. As we’re providing food for the public, the advice we had was to keep going. We’re now looking at how we can grow the organisation to do more for the community and the environment.”

Katie emphasises that there is still time for people who are looking for work to join the latest training course. “We often find that enrolment is a spontaneous, last-minute decision, and we take people two or three weeks in if we have spaces. So it’s not too late to pick up the phone.”

Contact Katie Kirk on 01736 272367