Press Release: 11 July 2014

Community Co-op Farm Launch Counters Co-op Group Farm Sell Out

Whilst the Co-op Group sells off the Co-op Farms to global agribusiness against members’ wishes, at Totnes South Devon a community co-op farm buyout for Week Farm will be opened on Saturday 19th July at Dartington Village Hall at 6pm by local councillor Jacqui Hodgson, Mayor of Totnes.

Grower Marina O ‘ Connell of the Apricot Centre will present how this new family farm will restore soil fertility, grow good organic food, increase biodiversity, enhance the landscape, train apprentices, serve the community, welcome children and be a viable farm business on 36 acres.

Martin Large, director of the Biodynamic Land Trust Community Benefit Society, will launch a £326,000 community share offer to raise the capital needed to buy the land into trust for the Apricot Centre to farm.

The aim is to develop a viable, community connected, educational farm, orchard and market garden that offer a research, learning and demonstration platform. Uniquely, Marina O ‘Connell will draw on a rich tool box of biodynamic, organic, permacultural and agro-ecological methods to transform bare land which has grown wheat and maize using nitrates for many years.

‘The Week Farm co-op buyout offers people the opportunity to invest in their community’s farming future for healthy food security, in family farming and a living, working countryside. Just as we saved Fordhall Farm in 2006 when 8000 people invested £800,000, so we can secure Week Farm into co-op trusteeship.’ Martin Large, Biodynamic Land Trust

“Our aim is to create a beautiful, bio-diverse abundant small farm producing fruit, vegetables, eggs, and juices and jams all sold locally. We will offer training and also access to the farm for children to find out about food, both growing it and eating it.” Marina O Connell, farmer, Apricot Centre

The BDLT meets the urgent need for enabling farmers to gain access to land without the crippling burden of debt, and help build sustainable food systems.’ Patrick Holden, Director, Sustainable Food Trust

Marina O’Connell is a horticulturalist who knows the Dartington soil well and can make the Week land flourish again, ‘Wendy Cook, author of the Biodynamic Cookbook, former wife of Peter Cook

This community purchase of land for people and wildlife friendly farming is the best way to change the world radically. Go for it!’ Colin and Ruth Tudge, Campaign for Real Farming

Schumacher College welcomes the addition of a biodynamic farm to the growing cluster of innovative farming approaches developing around Totnes. Our students will benefit greatly from the research and training opportunities which the new farm will offer.’Tim Crabtree, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Schumacher.

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Notes for Editors

  1. The Week Land Share Offer Launch will take place on Saturday 19th at 6-8pm, Dartington Village Hall, Cott Road, TQ9 6HY, preceded by a farm walk gathering at Week hamlet at 4.15 for 4.30-5.30 walking the land.
  2. See www.biodynamiclandtrust.org.uk for more information and a downloadable Share Offer Prospectus. See www.apricotcentre.org.uk for more information about the Apricot Centre and Marina O’Connell’s work
  3. Contacts: Martin Large, Biodynamic Land Trust, 07765 006829; biodynamiclandtrust@gmail.com
  4. Marina O Connell : 07780757958; apricotmarina@googlemail.com
  5. Week Farm will draw on the following methods: 1. Biodynamic agriculture is an established organic system focusing on nurturing soil fertility with dynamic manure and herb base preparations. The health of soil, plants and animals, and the high quality produce, such as the award winning biodynamic wines, is maintained by meeting the Demeter quality standard.

2. Permaculture is a methodology for designing sustainable systems, it is often used for smaller urban systems in the UK, or sometimes radical communities but here we will be using it to design a large integrated system that fits with the local community.

3. Agro-ecology is an umbrella term to describe the many types of farming systems that are in use that benefit the ecological systems as well as produce food. This encompasses organic, biodynamic and permaculture, agroforesty, as well as systems that are not registered but use food production methods that support wildlife.

4. Agroforestry – this term describes the use of trees in a farming system, in this instance we aim to use coppice willow/ hazel to provide windbreaks and supply fuel for the heating systems of the buildings on site.

5. Community supported agriculture: CSA’s are co-ops that support farmers through buying produce direct at fair price e.g. through box schemes; people invest, volunteer and help in many ways: see www.stroudcommunityagriculture.org.uk

  1. Summary Week Land Community Share Offer: Opens 18 July; Closes 22 September 2014.

The Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) is planning to raise £336,000 in community shares to purchase farmland at Week, Dartington, and Totnes in South Devon in order to create a learning and demonstration farm for biodynamic and organic food production. People are invited to invest and thereby become members of the BDLT. This share offer will:

  • Fund the purchase of a 999 year lease for approximately 36 acres of farmland from the Dartington Hall Trust. Secure the land for local production of biodynamic food
  • Restore soil fertility, increase biodiversity, enhance landscape and conserve nature
  • Benefit the community through good food, permissive land access, research, education, training, apprenticeships, sustainable livelihoods, volunteering, and increasing local resilience. Offer a social, cultural and environmental return

If the minimum amount of £326,000 is raised from this offer, then the BDLT will invest up to £100,000 to secure the Farm Land at Week and invest in the farm infrastructure. Minimum investment £100; Maximum investment £20,000

  1. Community Co-op Farm Buy Outs: Since Martin Large and Greg Pilley of Stroud Common Wealth assisted Charlotte and Ben Hollins save Fordhall Farm in 2004-6 by setting up a co-op Community Benefit Society that raised over £800,000 from over 8,000 members, around 1500 CBS’s have been established for saving pubs, community farms, community renewable co-ops, woods, orchards, shops and more. The co-op CBS model offers people the opportunity to invest directly into local social businesses, with democratic membership rights, although the investment is potentially at risk. Recent successes include the purchase of Rush Farm and Stockwood Business Park in June 2014 by Stockwood CBS Ltd, a charitable CBS. See www.communityshares