Ashden Awards

Ashden Award for Future Farmers


Black Mountains College



Ashden Award for Future Farmers
Area of Work:
Regenerative FarmingGreen Skills, Jobs and Training
Region: UK
Awards Year: 2023
Supported by Garfield Weston Foundation

Black Mountains College, in mid-Wales, teaches skills essential for climate action and adaptation.

The college is focused on practical, outdoor learning, and emphasises creativity and climate justice alongside technical skills.

As of September 2023, Black Mountains College offers three NVQs – in coppicing and greenwood trades, regenerative horticulture and nature recovery – and a BA in Sustainable Futures: Arts, Ecology and Systems Change. In each year of the study, the undergraduate degree has ‘change in practice modules’, allowing students to apply learning in the real world.

By protecting and restoring green spaces, the regenerative approaches taught at Black Mountains College offer an alternative to the extractive practices used in mainstream farming and land management. 

Students are taught how to work in ways that don’t require petrol power tools, to follow ‘no-dig’ principles which lock more carbon into the soil, and to use techniques that reduce demand for water.   

The institution is based in the town of Talgarth but has a close relationship with Neath Port Talbot Group of Colleges and Cardiff Metropolitan University, which are the accrediting bodies for its courses.

As of September 2023, Black Mountains College offers three NVQs

Short courses help the college widen its outreach


Tackling inequality

The college’s commitment to inclusion and diversity includes close ties with its local community – students take part in projects with local schools and faith groups, and work in community woodlands. 

Short courses help the college widen its outreach. Its annual Ecological Futures Camp is a residential experience for young people living in towns and cities, which introduces them to the basics of ecology. The college works closely with partner organisations to make sure a diverse mix of young people take part.  

The college is teaching skills that can be applied locally, in an area facing economic challenges. Talgarth’s last major employer, a hospital, closed down in the 1990s. The college’s work supports the growth of sustainable jobs, in Talgarth and other rural communities.

A radical heritage 

The college’s founder Ben Rawlence was inspired by the original Black Mountain College, which operated in the United States from the 1930s to 1950s. The North Carolina institution offered a radical model of education – students worked on the land, practiced the arts and studied philosophy. 

Ben believes that by pioneering alternative approaches and pedagogy, the new Black Mountains College will unlock human potential and help drive the cultural change needed to thrive despite the unfolding climate crisis.    

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