21 Jul 2013

URGENT: Can you support a new community farm?

Hi all, I've been asked to add this to the blog...an invitation to support the community buy-out of 137 acres of Nupend Farm, Horsley to enable the development of a community connected farm at Wheelbarrow. I don't know the details but there is lots of info below and I will certainly explore further....the deadline is 23rd July and would urge others to consider whether they can support....

Dear Friends,

Berni and Fadia Courts of Wheelbarrow Farm, Horsley have just contacted us at the Stroud based charitable Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT), to ask for help securing 137 acres of Nupend Farm, so that they can develop a viable community connected, organic farm.  The potential benefits include permissive public access, growing healthy food, jobs, training entrant farmers, access for children, more biodiversity and landscape value, and the preservation of both family farming and a living, working countryside.

Berni, with Fadia’s full support, has for 18 years farmed and managed Gables Farm, a small mixed farm  situated near Tipputs Inn on the A46 ,  near Horsley. Fadia has recently taken on fully the development of their own  holding , Wheelbarrow Farm. They see the opportunity to develop Wheelbarrow Farm at Horsley, into a beacon community connected farm, supplying good food locally so as to cut food miles and increase   resilience.  Just imagine a farm where the whole community can safely appreciate working horses, sheep, cattle, poultry and pigs, and where we can work together as a community to grow vegetables, fruit and cereals.

The unexpected sale of Nupend Farm took them by surprise, as did the estate agent’s closing date for offers by 2 pm on Tuesday July 23!  Equally, this out of the blue request for BDLT support caught us hopping, as finding £1.1 million with security at such short notice is an unusual challenge, when our funds are mostly committed. Hence this  urgent invitation.....

However, because many local people and indeed people from all over Britain are concerned with how to make the transition to a local, sustainable  food culture,  we thought this an opportunity to write to you to ask,   ‘How can we secure this land together for a beacon,  community connected farm?’

You may ask what other communities have successfully done this? Consider Bristol Community Farm, Fordhall Farm at Market Drayton (assisted by Stroud Common Wealth), Stroud Community Agriculture and Tablehurst Community Farm in Sussex, which the BDLT  helped secure land for.

The formula for success is simple: competent, experienced community engaged farmers with a viable business plan for a diversified mixed farm, plus a shared vision for a community connected farm as well as a community of local people wanting to support their local farm by investing in the land and the produce. Wheelbarrow can successfully realise this with your help and dialogue on needs.

The land (GL6 0PZ) is on the right of the B4058 going out of Horsley in the Uley direction. There are water sources and reasonable soils (Grade 3) and good access. Currently there are two pastures and 4 large arable fields growing cereals, potatoes, oil seeds etc in a 8 year rotation.

The 137 acres of bare land  is priced at around £1.1million. There is a £256,000 bank loan potentially on offer, so we need to find £ 744,000 in gifts (we are a charity, so these are gift aidable), interest free loans, low interest loans, loan guarantees and community shares.  To enable the BDLT to make a timely offer by Tuesday, we would need interested people to commit now, and then if our bid is successful, to get money to us by the end of August.

So, can we do another Fordhall, where over 8,000 people invested £800,000 in community shares to secure the farm?  If villages can buy pubs,  can they be inspired to buy a farm ?

How does the BDLT and Community Shares work?

The BDLT is a charitable community benefit society based in Stroud with educational, countryside conservation and sustainable organic, biodynamic farming objects. You join by investing, and there is one member one vote, regardless of the size of your share investment, and members elect directors at AGMs. Shares are intended to be a long term investment in the community, with no interest paid - rather there are environment and social benefits.

(See www.biodynamiclandtrust.org.uk for our Rules, also www.communityshares.org.uk)

Apart from  inheritance, shares are only  withdrawable from the BDLT subject to three months notice and at the discretion of the directors. Although in practice the shares are not easy to withdraw, they are known as withdrawable shares, not transferable shares. Individuals as well as organisations can join, and the limit is £20,000 shares, though loans are also an option. The BDLT has an asset lock.  As an investor, you should be aware that  there are some financial risks,  although this is a sound, land backed investment. So don’t invest more than you can afford to lose.

At this stage, we are inviting you to make an expression of interest-to be firmed up later should there be enough support. So, how would the  community buy out of the land work?

 How would the Nupend land community buy out work?

Everything helps. This will only work if many people email us by Monday pm or Tuesday 23rd by 10 am  using the Expression of Interest Form pledging either to:

·      Make  a gift

·      Or, invest in shares: 4,400 people investing £250 each will raise £1.1 million!

·      Or, invest £8,500 in shares to secure one acre. Imagine if 137 people can do this?

·      Or, offer long term interest free loans, or loans at low interest

·      Or, help with events, organising and administration

·      Or consider becoming a supporter of  Wheelbarrow Community Farm

·      Or be prepared to guarantee a loan

If there are enough timely pledges and support, then the BDLT directors can then consider whether we can go ahead or not. This last minute invitation could just work!  Please discuss it with friends and family, tweet it, and pass the email invitation on? If you need more information about the farm, ring Fadia and Bernie on 07977174741 (B) 07429427650 (F) or email them on fadiaandberni@googlemail.com for more details. Come on a farm walk at 5pm Tuesday 23rd July at Wheelbarrow Farm and become part of an exciting vision for local community agriculture.

Yours Sincerely

Martin Large,

Executive director of the BDLT (biodynamiclandtrust@gmail.com, 07765 006829)

PS As well as assisting the Fordhall Farm community buy out,  Stroud Common Wealth helped raise £25,000 in 5 days in 2010 for an auction to buy Folly Wood, for Stroud Co-op Woodlands.  So we know it can be done!

So, please request an Expression of Interest Form and return ASAP……………………………….so we can acknowledge on Thursday 25th

 'We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.'  Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic
Biodynamic Land Trust : www.biodynamiclandtrust.org.uk
The Biodynamic Land Trust Ltd is registered with the FSA as a community benefit society,(31448R) and is an exempt charity registered with the FSA (XT33649)
The Painswick Inn, Gloucester St, Stroud  GL5 1QG UK

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