Chair:Rebecca Laughton (LWA)
This session looked a three very different approaches to achieving and improving access to land, particularly for are entrants.
Ed Goff, a retired dairy farmer from Shropshire, described how he set up a contract farming agreement, enabling him continue to enjoy living on the farm in retirement whilst giving a younger producer to access land without having to meet prohibitive purchase/ rental costs. In essence, Ed retains ownership of the farm and all the infrastructure while Grant, the contract farmer owns the stock and machinery. Profits are split 70% to Grant and 30% to Ed. ‘A sound working relationship based on trust is the bedrock of contract farming’ said Ed. ‘Get good advice too; Tony Evans and the Anderson Centre helped us and his knowledge and experience was vital to success of the venture.’
Adam Reid of The Earth Trust outlined a more collaborative approach to improving access to land. The Earth Trust owns and manages approximately 500ha of land in Little Wittenham, and the Farm Step project makes this land available to people who are currently locked out of farming by land price and availability, or lack of skills. The businesses are financially independent of both each other and the trust, but are chosen such they complement, and can integrate with one another. Businesses the farm at present include honey, pig and lamb producers, market gardeners and a hedge laying business/ training centre. As well as fitting into the Earth Trust community, businesses are selected on the basis of their contribution to sustainable living terms of farming techniques, enhancing opportunities for wildlife while minimising resource use and carbon; and the extent to which business model brings people in surrounding communities into a closer relationship with land and with the people and processes associated with food production. There is no fixed term to agreements, but it is clearly understood that ultimately producers will move on to set up their own enterprises, opening up opportunities for new businesses to come in in their place.
Helen Kearney is one of three smallholders in the Greenham Reach project in Devon established by the Ecological Land Co-operative, who share infrastructure (a barn, rainwater harvesting tanks, a solar array and a water treatment system). They have a 25 year rent to buy agreement, with low rental costs for the first 5 years which are a great help during the initial stages of setting up her business, growing and processing medicinal herbs as well as producing cut flowers. It has been a rewarding, but challenging experience. In April 2013 the ELC was granted permission to develop the smallholdings for new entrants and it has until 2018 to fulfil various requirements, most significantly to support at least one full time job on each holding. Coming late to the project, there is significant pressure on the family to meet this stipulation in a relatively short time frame, and the reporting requirements can be rigorous (they have to record every journey they make off the holding) and there is the sense that life revolves around meeting of externally imposed targets rather than getting on with the day job! Helen is, however, very optimistic about the future and once the planning hurdles are cleared, look forward to long a successful tenure on the land.
Discussions were quite diverse and focused on the minutiae of the various agreements/ models, but the big take home messages were:
- These three diverse examples showed that by taking a different approach, the legislative and financial barriers that new entrants face when trying to buy land or taking out ‘traditional’ farm business tenancies can be overcome.
- Whatever the model, the need for clarity on terms and conditions, good communication and excellent working relationships was emphasised again and again.
- Support and advice is available, be that through business consultants, land trusts or other organisations – use it!
Individual speaker presentations and abstracts
Ed Goff (A retiring dairy farmer): The ingredients for a successful share farming arrangement (No powerpoint presentation)
I explored the possibility of share farming and contract farming and chose the latter with a local organic farmer as contractor.
This presentation will focus on exploring the politics and practice of Food Sovereignty in Europe. We will look at how the vision has been developed by the European Coordination of Via Campesina, and other grassroots civil society organisations, into a credible framework for a localised, democratic and sustainable solution to the problems of the industrial food and farming system in Europe. The talk will blend examples of food sovereignty in practice, with an analysis of the political significance of the Food Sovereignty vision in the European context, and a look forwards at the development of the European food sovereignty movement.
Helen Kearney (Greenham Reach, Ecological Land Co-operative Lessee): A new entrant’s perspective (No powerpoint presentation)
Greenham Reach is the first set of three affordable, low impact smallholdings established by the Ecological Land Co-operative. Smallholders can either take out a 999 year lease or rent to buy agreement on a holding, and are provided with shared infrastructure (a barn, rainwater harvesting tanks, a solar array and a water treatment system) and temporary residential planning permission. Helen, moved to Greenham Reach in March 2015 with her husband and family with a 25 year rent to buy agreement. We have 5.5 acres that we pay £293 per month for 5 years which will then increase to £586 for 20 years. This arrangement made the site the most affordable way to access a land based livliehood. Helen is a Medical Herbalist and the small holding grows medicinal herbs that are processed in to medicines and herbal products, cut flowers and trees.