We held the first BDLT member’s day at Rush Farm, hosted by Chris Burdett, Adrian, Ann and Sebastian Parsons with informative talks and a farm walk. Members’ questions for the day included:
- What working models are there of viable BD farming and enterprise?
- How can effective leadership and trusteeship be developed/ passed on?
- How can we develop an effective, well-run land trust and guarantee that our values are embedded?
The Rush Farm Story
Sebastian Parsons told the Parsons family farming story, starting with his grandfather David Clement who bought Broome Farm to support the work of the Sunfield Children’s Home at Clent. David was a pioneering biodynamic farmer, playing a leading role on the BDA for many years, yet he ignored the fact that of his four children, it was his daughter Ann who most wanted to farm. Despite efforts for a farm community buy out after his death, Broome Farm was sold to the highest bidder.
The Parsons family want to ensure Rush Farm is secured into Trust for biodynamic farming for present and future generations. They will transfer ownership of both Stockwood Business Park and Rush Farm to the newly founded Stockwood Community Benefit Society, which will apply to become a charity. The purpose is, ‘to preserve, conserve and protect for community benefit the environment of the countryside through the prudent management, sustainable development, holding and farming of land and property and use of natural resources including the promotion and use of biodynamic principles, processes and practices and related organic and sustainable land management practices.’
This means that there will be no family inheritance problems in the future, as bedevilled Broome Farm. The BDLT will manage future transfers of tenancy. It also means that the farm will be supported by the rental income stream from the profitable Stockwood Business Park, and farm based enterprises such as food processing will be developed.
People are welcome to join Stockwood Community Benefit Society (SCBS) through investing as members, and receive a projected 5% interest on shares. And those who prefer to make donations, rather than invest in SCBS, can make gift aided donations via the BDLT to help it invest in SCBS.
The BDLT will partner Stockwood Community Benefit Society, investing £150,000. It will act as a Custodian Trustee, able to veto any changes to Objects, the asset lock and protection against demutualisation. If SCBS is wound up in the future, Rush Farm will go to the BDLT.
The plan is that, after SCBS is registered with the FSA, there will be a share offer to raise up to £1mn shares for securing Rush Farm, to complement bank loans. Full details will be posted, when ready, on www.stockwoodcbs.org and www.biodynamiclandtrust.org.uk websites.
Some highlights from the farm walk:
- Bought in 2005,the farm was a run down stud farm with no infrastructure. The land was overworked with poor fertility.
- It is now both Demeter and Organic Soil Association certified
- Crop rotation systems have been established for the land that is suitable for arable- it is a mixed farm with 200 Llwyn sheep lambing 300 lambs approx. a year, and a herd of Hereford cattle
- A good infrastructure of fences, water troughs, tracks and paths has been established
- The soil and land has been restored
- Environmental improvements have been made under HELS and OELS, for example the RSPB counted 64 birds species recently
- ‘Impressed how well the farm has been turned round and certainly I’d like to invest in it.’
- Struck by the mutually supportive interaction of the farm and business park, and how this gives opportunities for investing in the future
- What about the potential for renewable energy here?
- I do want to support this, but need to understand more how it all works!
- We need to develop this working model, getting the details right and effective ways of working
- ‘Very inspirational for my Cornwall project.’
- ‘Just returned from the first BDLT members meeting all fired up to invest in Rush Farm and the Stockwood community business.’