Two-year learning opportunity at Vallis Veg for aspiring market gardeners

Vallis Veg is a small (18 acre) mixed use site with a market garden, campsite, educational co-op and mostly off-grid homestead on the edge of Frome in northeast Somerset.

We’re looking for someone to join us ideally for 2 years with a focus on working/learning in our small market garden and veg box scheme and in the second year running it – basic accommodation and some remuneration is provided.

Our aim is to give people experience and confidence in running a small agroecological market gardening business so that they can go on to develop their own business elsewhere.

We envisage that the position would work as follows:

Year 1 (roughly March 2022 – February 2023): the postholder will work 24 hours per week on the market garden and box scheme, assisting with and learning all aspects of the business. There will also be opportunities to engage with other aspects of the activities on the site, and to pursue horticultural learning activities.

Year 2 (roughly March 2023 – February 2024): the postholder will take over the management and day-to-day running of the market garden. This will include recruiting, teaching and managing a new person to join Year 1 of the next work cycle.

Outline of the role

In Year 1:

  • Working with the market garden managers on all aspects of raising, cultivating and harvesting vegetables and some fruit for commercial sale
  • Working with the market garden managers on packing and delivering veg boxes locally using an electric delivery trike
  • Working with the market garden managers on planning, accounts, marketing, recruiting, sales and customer admin in order to get the skills needed to run the market garden in the second year

In Year 2:

  • Taking on the management of the above roles and teaching the new person/people so they can take over running it in the following year

In both years:

  • Occasional work with the whole site community on general site maintenance, e.g. processing firewood
  • Possible paid or unpaid work by arrangement and in accordance with interest on other aspects of the site such as woodland management, livestock, orcharding and campsite management
  • General participation in the life of the site community
  • Pursuing horticultural learning opportunities by arrangement with the site team

Terms and benefits

  • In Year 1, a weekly payment of £100, plus rent-free accommodation onsite in a small insulated caravan with wood-burner, and off-grid electric lighting/USB charging with access nearby to bathroom, washing machine (when we have enough electricity) etc. No energy or water bills. Access to surplus produce from the market garden by arrangement.
  • In Year 2, a modest, variable business income derived from running the market garden, plus rent-free accommodation onsite in a 2-bedroom cabin with kitchen/living room. Expenses will include council tax and a contribution to site management costs by arrangement. Produce from the market garden.
  • In Year 1, a 24-hour week by arrangement, usually across Mon-Fri. Occasional evening and weekend work by arrangement
  • In Year 2, no fixed hours but an overall responsibility to manage the market garden effectively by arrangement
  • There are usually one or two shared farm meals per week, with cooking on a rota system. Outside of this, the appointee will usually provide and cook their own food.
  • Holidays during the year by negotiation with the management team – likely to be a minimum of 2 weeks by arrangement during the peak work season, with more time off after Christmas.
  • Learning opportunities – largely this will be learning in order to do specific jobs rather than a course with a curriculum, although there are core things that will have to be covered in order for you to be able to run the business in the second year. We hope that setting this up as a two-year opportunity in this way will create a strong incentive for you to engage with all the elements of running a small market garden and therefore give a different kind of learning experience with an immediately useful practical outcome.
  • Occasional participation in whole site management activities
  • Exact start & finish dates by arrangement

Person specification

The successful candidate must meet the following essential and, ideally, desirable criteria:

Essential criteria

  • An interest in and commitment to the principles of small-scale agroecological market gardening and a desire to pursue it as a career
  • A willingness to do outdoor land-based work in all weathers and to participate in all other aspects of veg box preparation, administration, marketing and trike-based delivery
  • An interest in and willingness to live and participate in a small, low impact, off grid community
  • A commitment to conflict resolution using principles of non-violent communication
  • A willingness to live on a landholding where animals are sometimes killed for meat or crop protection (the postholder is not expected to participate in this)

Desirable criteria

  • Experience of growing vegetables, preferably in a commercial setting
  • Experience of low impact, off grid and community-based living

Further information about Vallis Veg

Vallis Veg is an 18 acre site on the western edge of Frome, about 30 minutes’ walk from the town centre. Features and activities on the site include:

  • The one-acre market garden
  • Fruit and nut trees
  • 7 acres of woodland managed for firewood, timber, wildlife, livestock and amenity
  • A 16-pitch campsite
  • Allotments for local residents
  • Kitchen gardens for site residents
  • Shared Earth Learning: an educational cooperative for child and adult learning
  • Livestock and domestic animals which may include pigs, hens, sheep, cattle and horses
  • Construction and maintenance projects for residential space and outbuildings, compost toilets, off grid energy etc.
  • Local and occasionally residential volunteers
  • The site has mains water, with hot water provided by wood burners and solar hot water tubes. Electricity is provided mostly by PV panels and a wind turbine (there’s limited electricity in winter). Grey water is managed through reed bed systems and all toilets are compost toilets.

The site management team comprises:

Ellie Ibbotson-Butt   Market garden manager

Silas Clay   Market garden manager

Cordelia Rowlatt       Site owner & general site manager

Chris Smaje       Site owner & general site manager

There are other residents onsite not involved in day-to-day land management.

To apply

Please send your CV and a covering letter explaining why you would like this position and how it fits with your experience to date and your future plans to info@vallisveg.co.uk by 9am Monday 20th December 2021. Short-listed applicants will be invited for a site tour, interview and discussion early in the new year.

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