A package of funding and support for ‘real farming’ has been launched.
The Just Growth programme, to be delivered in England, Scotland and Wales by Co-operative & Community Finance in partnership with the Real Farming Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, aims to nurture community enterprises that are farming and producing food an environmentally and socially responsible way.
Over the next 18 months, the project plans to help up to 14 community-based farming initiatives to start up, expand or develop new activities that make them more resilient and sustainable.
Up to eight of these projects will receive a funding package made up of one third loan finance from Co-operative & Community Finance and one third grant funding from Esmée Fairbairn. The remaining third has to be raised from the local community through crowdfunding or community shares.
The minimum loan amount is £15,000 which must be matched or exceeded by community finance. The grant will match the loan but will be capped at £20,000.
The eight projects receiving funding will also have access to three days of specialist advice.
The other projects will receive a day and a half of expert support to help them develop their business plans so they are more ready for future investment.
Ian Rothwell of Co-operative & Community Finance said: “We are using a funding model that has been tried and tested with great success, so we are as confident as we can be that it will work with community-supported agriculture.”
The three-pronged approach to funding has been used successfully in the past by both Co-operative & Community Finance and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to support community-owned shops.
Just Growth is a project of the Funding Enlightened Agriculture network which itself is a project of the Real Farming Trust. The mission of the trust is to enable the growth of farming and food production practices that are economically sound and democratic, socially just, humane to animals, and promote the long-term protection of natural resources.
Managing Just Growth is Clare Horrell, who has over seven years’ experience of working with community-supported food and agriculture projects for Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.
“We believe that agriculture needs to be just and fair for people and the environment,” she said.
“Just Growth aims to nurture a just agricultural model through encouraging and supporting small-scale farming. We are keen to see more community ownership and we will be looking for organisations with strong co-operative principles.”