Dartington residents face a unique opportunity to support a new farm at Week which will both connect with the community and be gentle on the land.
Contemporary farms may use artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, so some local residents have been shutting their pets away during times of spraying. So residents investing and or giving to securing the Week land into a co-op trust would enable farmer Marina O’Connell and the Apricot Centre to regenerate the land and setup a fruitful, organic educational market garden for the community to benefit from and enjoy. So this is an invitation to choose your farming neighbours at Week.
The Apricot Centre, run by Marina O Connell and her team hope to develop a productive, mixed small farm on the Week land. The depleted soils will be regenerated using the latest biodynamic, permacultural and organic methods. Wildlife will be protected and the land transformed into a fertile educational market garden and organic family farm
People who know Apricot see a significant shift to agro-ecological, organic growing: ‘Marina O’Connell is a horticulturalist who knows the Dartington soil well and can make the Week land flourish again,’ says Wendy Cook. ‘Go for it!’ say Colin and Ruth Tudge of the Campaign for Real Farming. ‘Our Schumacher College students will benefit greatly from the research and training opportunities which the new farm will offer,’ Tim Crabtree. ‘A shining star,’ Tom Petherwick, Cholwell Farm.
Your support is crucial for securing the Week land. The Dartington Hall Trust has concluded an exclusivity agreement to sell the land to the charitable Biodynamic Land Trust. However, the BDLT needs to raise £326,000 by mid September. The BDLT will invest a further £100,000 in the farm infrastructure if £326,000can be raised. People can give, make long term interest free loans and/or invest from £100 to £20,000 in withdrawable BDLT community shares, thus gaining one member/one vote membership to elect directors at AGM’s. The BDLT is a community benefit society, drawing on co-op values to mutualise land trusteeship. The BDLT will lease the Week land long term to Apricot.
Mayor Jacqui Hodgson opened the 19th July Apricot and BDLT Share Offer Launch at a packed Dartington Village Hall meeting with over 90 attending. Marina O Connell explained how the Apricot team want to return to South Devon, having set up the now very successful School Farm on the Dartington Hall Estate in the 1980’s. She was inspired by her learning there about how children – our farmers of the future – take to the land, love chickens, growing and developing a taste for a wide range of food, and participating in nature. This led to developing the Apricot Centre organic fruit farm in Essex with well being programmes for children.
Can we secure the Week land? Well yes! We used to call this ‘a public subscription for community assets ’. 8,000 people invested £800,000 to secure Fordhall Farm in Shropshire. 62 families invested £500 each to secure our co-op wood near Stroud. All we need here is 750 people investing an average of £440 each, or 1500 people also investing £220 each, to raise the £326,000 needed!
Martin Large: firstname.lastname@example.org, (07765) 006829
Dartington Parish contacts: Rory Valentine (01803) 865970; David Ellis (01803) 867115; Donald Young (01803) 849373; Wendy Cook (01803) 865 941; Anne Phillips;
Downloadable Week Community Share Offer: www.biodynamiclandtrust.org.uk
The above article appeared in the Dartington Messenger in August.