The story behind the establishment of the Biodynamic Land Trust including the reasons why, the challenges and our vision for the future.
We will start our story with our Vision. This is a healthy, sustainable regenerative agricultural system that:
- provides fresh local food;
- connects communities to land;
- supports land-based education, nature and wellbeing;
- creates rural jobs and improves countryside economies.
The background to our story includes such challenges as:
- A land grab for industrial-scale food growing or for primarily investment purposes.
- Growing concern about climate change, resource depletion, peak oil, wildlife decline. This is alongside the need for food sovereignty and more localized food systems.
- A crisis in farming, as small and medium-sized family farms continue to go out of business.
- The average age of farmers is increasing and farm incomes are decreasing.
- Farmers are often isolated in fragmented communities.
- Inheritance and succession issues have led to the loss of biodynamic farms.
- Young farmers and food growers with the skills and motivation need land. However, the costs of buying or leasing farms often prevents entry to young farmers with little capital.
- The demand for good locally-grown biodynamic and organic food increases. People want to reconnect with local farms and build sustainable rural communities. This can be demonstrated by the rapid growth of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes in Britain.
Research shows that when we eat organic/biodynamic food as part of a healthy lifestyle our serious illness reduces considerably. In addition, soils farmed biodynamically have been shown to store more soil organic carbon than those farmed conventionally. So, it is vital to ensure that more land is farmed biodynamically and sustainably.
Why a Biodynamic Land Trust?
People want to reconnect with food, land and place. We see emerging a vibrant local food movement: farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, community orchards, for example. As a result, there is a need for community connected farming, guided by agro-ecological and biodynamic farming principles. It would also have a co-operative approach to creating viable land-based enterprises.
The Biodynamic Land Trust will help realize our vision for farming by securing and stewarding land for farmers, market gardens and communities. Such land produces quality biodynamic food now and into the future.
The Biodynamic Land Trust was established in 2011 by Martin Large who stepped down as founding Executive Director in 2015. He is a director of Stroud Common Wealth Ltd, founded in 1999 to develop co-operatives, small businesses and community land trusts. Martin provided technical assistance to the Fordhall Farm community buyout in 2005/6. He also helped set up Gloucestershire Land for People Community Land Trust (CLT), and was chair of the CLT National Demonstration Project 2007/9.
questions from farmers
One reason for setting up the Biodynamic Land Trust is that farmers keep asking for help securing land. These questions have played a key role in our story. Farmers may have heard about the Fordhall Farm purchase, for example. Or that, since then, an increasing number of CSAs have been buying land and financing the farm business by using community share offers. Biodynamic farmers ask questions like:
- How can we secure land for food growing through land trusteeship?
- Can existing farmers ensure their farms stay biodynamic when they get too old to farm? Could the Land Trust help here?
- How can young farmers get access to farms?
- How could communities help finance and develop farms?
- Can we help existing large-scale biodynamic farming organisations such as Camphill preserve their farmland?
- Could you help us purchase farmland that we are currently leasing, but which the owners now want to sell?
Biodynamic farms like Temple Wilton, New Hampshire (Yggrassil Land Foundation) in the USA, alongside Plaw Hatch and Tablehurst Farms with St Anthony’s Trust in Sussex, helped to pioneer farm land trusts. How could their learning inspire putting more acres into biodynamic farming through land trusteeship?
‘As third generation tenant farmers of Fordhall Farm, we see community farm ownership as the way to secure the land for continuing community benefit — for food growing, wildlife, access, enterprises, heritage, education activities and offering a ‘green lung’ to Market Drayton.’
Succession and inheritance
Retirement offers the opportunity to hand ones life’s work on to continue the biodynamic farm story. Farmers and landowners committed to biodynamics and the stewardship of their farms can give them to the Biodynamic Land Trust. Following this, the Land Trust would lease the farm to suitable farmers, which could include family members. As a result, farm donors can be confident that their farm continues, as the Land Trust will hold, manage and steward the land into the future. Biodynamic and sustainable farming practice will continue for successive generations. Consequently, a stream of land will go into trusteeship, not be sold as a commodity on the market and lost to sustainable biodynamic farming.
Young biodynamic and entrant farmers
The Land Trust is keen to assist young and entrant farmers to take a first step on the farming ladder. We do this by providing access to land, skills and resources, and helping them develop viable businesses. We are also seeking to develop an innovative range of land tenures and capital-raising options. These will respond constructively to the particular needs of farms, farmers and communities.
Engaging people and communities
The Land Trust offers people and communities the opportunity engage by investing in and giving to secure land. Sometimes this in partnership with CSA schemes. As a result people can enjoy the countryside and understand the importance of food and farming. They can connect with the land and also gain access to farms. We offer a structure for involvement, where everyone can make a difference.