We are delighted to offer the UK’s first and only accredited course in community orchards. Join our exciting course (known as CICO) to learn everything you need to know about managing healthy, productive community orchards, taught by our team of highly knowledgeable, experienced orchardists. We run this course over several months, giving you an opportunity to learn a wide range of seasonally-appropriate skills, including:
- Tree planting
- Grafting (spring and summer)
- Pruning (summer and winter)
- Biodiversity, pests, & disease
- Site survey and orchard design
- Soil science and boosting soil diversity organically
- Caring for old orchards & veteran trees
- Identifying fruit trees and apple varieties
- Managing orchards and the groups caring for them
- …and more!
As well as attending several very practical face to face days, you will have access to our brilliant training platform. This has 25 interactive quizzes and over 40 brilliant videos that you won’t find anywhere else. Our tutors are experienced and will support you through the course, leaving you feel empowered and knowledgeable; a certified orchardist.
Our current Autumn 2023 courses are now full. Get more info and join our waiting list, or sign up to the London February 2024 course below:
Crossfields Institute Level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding
To gain the CICO qualification (level 6 in Scotland and level 3 in the UK) you need to pass two compulsory units and at least one of the optional units. However, we find that most students opt to complete all four units.
- Units 1 and 2 (compulsory). We cover: orchard history; tree lifecycles, physiology, identification and planting; tree care programmes; biodiversity; soil science; pests and diseases; formative and maintenance pruning; grafting; and effective group work. It takes 6 days to cover units 1 and 2, along with at least 3 reinforcement days.
- Unit 3 (optional). If you want to maintain an established orchard, possibly containing some veteran trees, you should choose this unit. This unit covers: veteran tree features; biodiversity surveys; veteran tree management; apple identification; apple varieties; taxonomy; and restorative pruning. It takes 3 days to cover this unit.
- Unit 4 (optional). If you want to design a new orchard this is the unit for you. We cover: summer pruning; extra grafting techniques; forest garden plants; surveying land; and designing a new orchard. Unit 4 takes 3 days to complete.
If you choose to go for the CICO Certificate, your learning will be assessed using a combination of written tests, presentations, reports and demonstrations. If necessary, we can modify assessments to suit your needs. You’ll need to pass three out of four units to gain the certification, which is regulated by Crossfields Institute.
Every year, we receive high scores in our CICO course evaluations and high praise from the students. Here are some of their comments:
“I’ve done a lot of courses and CICO is the best course I’ve done by far.”
“The course has been brilliantly crafted with each module flowing organically into the next, building on knowledge learnt. Listening to the presentations with orchard birdsong, I can feel myself relaxing.”
“There is a real sense of community and support within our group of teachers and students alike, something I’ve found invaluable.”
“Fascinating and inspirational from the start… I didn’t want the course to end!”
“A healthy mix of practical and reinforcement days, out in the fresh air, across the seasons. I accepted the course without knowing orchard management in the UK could be such fun. I now want to share it with everyone!”
“The CICO course book is clear, well-edited and humorous, with a lot of well-presented and detailed information.”
“I gained a lot of understanding, as well as the techniques and knowledge to design a resilient food landscape in the midst of ongoing global warming… It gives me hope for the future.”
Most of the course is taught by members of The Orchard Project team: Jo Homan, Lewis McNeill, Witchhazel Wildwood, Kate Davies, Chris Macefield and Fergus Walker. Jo Homan developed the course and is the main point of contact for students in London; Witchhazel Wildwood is the main point of contact for students in Wales. Chris is the main point of contact for students in Scotland.
“Lewis was great – really passionate, lots of interesting and unusual facts.”
“Jo’s knowledge always astounds me every week. Her teaching style to weave in different ways of teaching, facilitation is amazing.”
External tutors for CICO
Working as an orchardist since 2001, Tom has specialist knowledge in old and local apple varieties. His work includes designing and planting new orchards, carrying out orchard surveys, orchard restoration, rescue work* and running a fruit tree nursery. As well as a deep knowledge in apple-care, Tom has well-honed practical skills in grafting, pruning and green woodworking. He runs workshops for the likes of The National Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, and local community orchards. Here he is being interviewed by the Telegraph. *’Rescue work’ means propagating trees whose variety can’t be immediately identified or is known to be rare.
Than is a freelance veganic horticultural tutor, forest gardener, forager and all round plant enthusiast. He currently tutors on the Certificate in Community Orcharding courses. Having worked for some years in food policy and sustainability research, his work is now focussed on creating and teaching about resilient food systems. He also teaches and delivers workshops with OrganicLea, Nourish the Wild and other community food growing organisations. Most of all he is passionate about indigenous earth wisdom, restoring wild spaces and creating edible landscapes that nourish all beings.
Nice balance of detail and going into things that might deviate from Curriculum but are interesting. He is patient, clear … made you think.CICO11 student
Sandra has been in the field of community horticulture and farming for over 10 years, teaching adults, families and children food growing skills, including Level 1 and entry level in Practical Gardening Skills. She founded the award winning GoGrowWithLove, co-founded BlackRootz, is part of the Friends of Harmony Gardens (Broadwater Farm) and used to be a lead grower at Living Under One Sun. With a deep spiritual connection to the land, Sandra is an advocate for nature’s mindfulness and has created the ‘Women Leading With The Land Project’ which empowers indigenous women of African and Caribbean heritage to develop skills in land care, food growing and enterprise, ultimately becoming SoilsiStars.
The passion with which Sandra spoke about soil was inspirational. Who would have thought soil had a personality.CICO10 student
Russel’s main interests are: trees, beetles, bees, fungi, social justice and problem solving. Having worked for 14 years as a litigation solicitor, he left the legal profession to be closer to nature. He helped set up The Orchard Project and is also involved in Trees for Life in Scotland. In addition, he runs The Tree Musketeers, a Hackney-based volunteer group which plants and maintains trees. You can read an interview with them here. Russell established and chairs the Abney Park Cemetery Nature Reserve group, and also chairs the Ancient Tree Forum.
A fantastic teacher. So much knowledge is shared. Russell is a walking encyclopaedia.CICO11 STUDENT
If you want to be kept updated about our courses, please contact Sarah Mason, our Training Co-ordinator.
- Staff Induction Training CPD Policy August 2023
- Recognition Of Prior Learning Policy July 2023
- Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations Policy July 2023
- Assessment Policy, July 2023
- Malpractice and Maladministration Policy July 2023
- Learner Appeals Policy July 2023
- Learner Complaints Policy July 2023
- Learner Admission And Recruitment Policy August 2023
- Internal Quality Assurance Policy Nov 2023
- Assessment and Training Policy Nov 2023
- Plagiarism Policy July 2023
- Transfers and Cancellations Policy August 2023
- Data Protection Policy September 2020
- Conflict Of Interest Policy July 2023
- Anti-harassment and bullying Policy 2022
- Health and Safety Policy, 2023
- Equal Opportunities and Diverisity Policy, June 2023
The Heritage Lottery Fund, Heineken and the GLA funded our Celebration of Orchards Project, which has now ended.