The Ecological Land Co-operative has officially opened following the results of a feasibility study, supported by the Co-operative Fund, which shows there is an opportunity for investors to contribute to a fund that will invest in affordable, ecological smallholdings.
The co-op will be owned and run by its members, both those working in the co-operative, those managing the co-operative’s land, and those managing other land (from allotments to farms) along ecological lines. However, investors will play an active role, with sufficient votes to protect their investment, as well as receiving a share in the co-operative’s profits.
It will buy agricultural land in larger blocks than smallholders can usually afford, and will secure planning permission for residential farms in accordance with the Government’s planning guidelines — a notoriously difficult process for individuals to succeed in. As a result, they will be able to offer these farms for sale at less than half the cost of existing farms and still provide a return to investors.
Alex Lawrie, a director of the co-operative, commented: “We found that there is a huge untapped demand for this lifestyle. Recent research has confirmed that small farms can be highly productive, with much higher yields per acre than larger ones. They also lend themselves very well to organic and other environmentally-friendly farming methods. Market failure has placed arbitrary barriers in the way of prospective smallholders, and we want to remove them.”
The share offer is on a small scale, with £500,000 needed to run the project on a trial scale. If successful, the co-op will make an initial public offering, following in the footsteps of organisations such as Cafe Direct and Westmill Wind Farm.
• Visit www.ecologicalland.coop for more details.