By Sophie Hopkins – Fordhall Community Land Initiative in the rural county of Shropshire, England, is a pioneering venture in land acquisition and rural development (an example of Community Land Trust).
Community Supported Agriculture
The project is an Industrial and Provident Society (‘run by the community, for the community’) which was established to save 140 acres of land that had been organically farmed since WWII. Fordhall Farm (the family business) is today famous for its meats, but was also the first place to produce yoghurt in UK. It uses the traditional method of foggage farming, leaving grass-fed cattle outdoors all year. The family had been farming the land for generations but only as tenants, so when faced with eviction and development threats in 2004 the brother and sister team (aged 19 and 21 respectively), and many others, decided to fight to secure the land. Working with local to global supporters and with the concept of Community Supported Agriculture, they devised a method to involve people in the food production chain, whilst still maintaining ownership of the farming practices.
The structure enabled people to by not-for-profit shares for 50 pounds each or make donations. A mortgage and loan were also raised, complimented by funding from sources such as the EU. In totally, 1.2 million pounds was collected within 8 month of campaigning, and people are still investing in the project. Reasons included to reconnect with nature; to save small farms; to support young people entering into the sector; and so on. There are now over 8,000 shareholders from around the world. The family are still tenants, but they have to conform to strict rules such as remaining organic and having managed open access – but now they have the security and motivation to invest in the land.
Today farm business and Initiative work closely together, complimenting one another. The family run a thriving farm shop and nature trail. The Initiative works alongside this and promotes sustainability, healthy eating and well being through a combination of events, promotion, courses and extensive (and popular) volunteering opportunities. This model has been used as an example for a new type of rural development movement and is being replicated over the UK.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Sophie Hopkins (email@example.com) who was the Project Manager and Community Development Manager from 2005 – 2008. Website: www.fordhallfarm.com.