The Ecological Land Co-operative has an exciting vision: it wants to develop a series of small farms across England. And now it has launched a share issue to make this dream a reality.
Based on the first cluster of smallholdings at Greenham Reach, Devon, the co-op is aiming to create 20 sustainable farms over the next five years.
“We need to raise £340,000 in withdrawable share capital to take our development of ecological smallholdings in England to the next level,” said executive director Oliver Rodker. “Our work is part of a growing movement to reconnect people and land, produce sustainable food, and address the pressing need for affordable housing and rural employment.”
The Ecological Land Co-op’s key aim is to widen the access to land for sustainable use through the creation of affordable, low-impact smallholdings. These smallholdings are aimed at new entrants to horticulture and mixed farming, and are protected for affordability and agricultural use in perpetuity.
The co-operative purchases agricultural land and divides it into a number of residentially managed smallholdings. Stakeholders, from local residents to the local wildlife trust, are included as part of the planning process.
ELC’s work has already had a significant impact on the lives of its smallholders. Ruth O’Brien, Greenham Reach smallholder, said: “We’ve been trying to do this for years but there are a lot of hurdles. Thanks to the Ecological Land Co-operative’s help, we now have a small farm that’s starting to become productive.
“Living on the land means that the work of growing food, looking after livestock and managing the land is integrated with our lives and our children’s lives, making it more sustainable, enjoyable and possible. Despite all of our training, skills and experience, without the ELC, we might never have managed to access land to farm and live in the low-impact way we do now.”
The 22-acre Greenham Reach site has been used for three businesses including a barn, track and three residential agricultural dwellings. Smallholdings were offered to three food and herb producers, with each operating as a separate business. This included the use of a barn, free solar energy and access to a rainwater system.
The co-operative is owned by a number of stakeholders. Investor members retain 25% of voting rights, worker members who are employed by the co-operative share 25% of the vote, and individual land managers own the remaining 50%.
- The share offer is open until 26 July. To find out more, visit: www.ecologicalland.coop