The aim of the fund is to raise capital for farmland purchase, through being a channel for one-off payments and for regular giving.
There are over 150 community land trusts in the USA, located in urban and rural areas.
How enterprising young farmers can engage with the community, mutualise the land and put it into trusteeship using the Industrial and Provident Society structure, raise the purchase capital from members and balance community access rights with farming needs.
Founded in 1878 with a gift of £7,000 by John Ruskin (1819-1900), the Guild aims ‘to promote the advancement of education and training in the field of rural economy, industrial design and craftsmanship and appreciation of the arts.’
How a community can come together to secure the future of local enterprise and farm land.
How hard it is for even a well resourced, connected and professionally highly competent potential community farm land trust to lease or buy land.
Biodynamic Land Fund
‘Despite the many accomplishments of humankind, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of top soil and the fact that it rains.’
What is the Biodynamic Land Fund?
The Fund aims to enable land to be purchased and held in trust, ensuring that it is reserved for biodynamic farming and kept in perpetuity for future generations of farmers. Such land would be leased on favorable terms to a cooperative, CSA or a body, qualified to work the land biodynamically. The fund is founded on the well-known banking principle that many small amounts of money given regularly will soon add up to a large amount. Robert Lord of the Cultural Freedom Trust founded it in 2004.
Why a Biodynamic Land Fund?
Modern farming techniques can reduce the quality of our soil, water, landscape and food. Organic farming offers us an approach that reduces much of these debilitating effects. Biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to the farm organism that seeks to cultivate the land with reverence using biodynamic preparations and practices. It encapsulates many of the notions of sustainability, compassion and eco-diversity that are becoming part of our society’s consciousness today. Our soil and our soul demand that we put into practice an approach to agricultural similar to that enshrined in biodynamics before both are exhausted.
More land is therefore needed for biodynamic farming. The aim of the fund is to raise capital for farmland purchase, through being a channel for one-off payments and for regular giving.
Biodynamic farming does not lend itself easily to a normal business plan in which capital borrowed for land purchase is gradually reaped. In fact, only a relatively small proportion of farmland cost, currently in 2011 between £5,000-£10,000 an acre depending on quality and location, can be paid by an agricultural mortgage. Most of the land value consists of things like ‘hope value’, i.e. the expectation that in the future planning permission for non farm uses like housing can be obtained, ‘estate value’-people like having small estates and play farms, or the farmhouse value greatly outweighing the land value. And as farm and market gardening businesses anyway do well to wash their faces in a fiercely competitive market, it is hard to pay more than the usual agricultural rents for land at £40-£50 per acre per annum.
So another approach to farmland finance is needed, a long-term approach that raises money to buy farmland and put it into trust for present and future farmers and communities.
How do people get involved, invest and/or give?
People are invited to make a small monthly contribution to the Fund, knowing that when combined with many similar contributions, it will accumulate over time to a sum sufficient to purchase farms and smallholdings. Anyone donating £120 during the first year will become a Founding Member, and the BLF goal is 500 founding members.
Investors and donors can help in the following ways:
- Donate £120 either as £10 per month or as a lump sum
- Contribute a larger amount on a regular basis or a one-off gift. In fact we are actively seeking such gifts to get the fund rolling
- Help us reach our target of 500 founding members, introduce your friends to the idea
- For UK taxpayers, Gift Aid can increase the value of your donation
Land Fund held by a Charity, the Cultural Freedom Trust
Robert Lord founded the Land Fund in 2004, in response to interest in supporting biodynamics. It was a project of The Cultural Freedom Trust, a small organization that aimed to support and set up innovative cultural, educational and artistic initiatives. The funds have been transferred to the BDLT.
How will funds be used?
§ To purchase land where there is a group, community or co-op that wants to farm biodynamically
§ Legal costs of land purchase and administration overheads are financed by the gift aid tax reclaimed, and interest received on investments whiles funds are building. The aim is for every pound donated ends up as land purchase money.
Discussion and Evaluation
- The Biodynamic Land Fund is a good idea in principle, and has raised over £17,000 since it was founded in 2004.
- However, to date, it has not bought any farmland, or made any loans for biodynamic land purchases
- Wessex Community Assets Research (2008) showed that people are more likely to give or invest in a concrete, specific project than in a fund with no immediate practical benefits. Fordhall Community Land Initiative raised £800,000 plus from 8300 members to secure Fordhall Farm in 2006, for example. So concrete BD land projects would bring in more money from investors, donors and lenders
- Gift Aid from having charitable status, is very useful, also for gifts of land from wills and estates. A charity at law community benefit society formerly known as an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) can ensure gift aid is possible
- Regular giving could work in the context of a stream of projects, so donors could connect with farm projects and see the benefits
- It is not clear what the formal connection between the Biodynamic Land Fund and the Biodynamic Association is, and perhaps in the future, the Fund or similar can be one task of the Biodynamic Land Trust
- The Biodynamic Land Fund could be more visible, with regular articles in relevant media
- A data base of interested people and investors would be an important resource for the future
The principle of a biodynamic land fund can be built in to the proposed Biodynamic Land Trust, or a partnership developed.
Find out more
CFLT in the USA
CFLTs in the USA
Native Americans were astonished at the land hunger of British colonists. They believed that a place ‘belonged’ to a particular people only to the degree that people belonged to the place. Rights were gained by long use and were communal, not individual rights. In the 1620’s, Massasoit of the Wampanaog asked his friends the Plymouth colonists, ‘What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beast, birds, fish, and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it only belongs to him?’
Article by Martin Large, 2004.
Indian Line Farm
The development of CSAs in the US has triggered the need for farmland purchase and then putting this into a community land trust. The E.F. Schumacher Society and the Equity Trust having been providing technical assistance and facilitation to several innovative community supported farms, such as Indian Line and Caretaker Farms. The E.F.Schumacher Society website has a comprehensive Online Community Land Trust handbook, with all the Indian Line Farm legal documents, management plan and agreements available for downloading. The following text is based on the E.F.Schumacher Society website – see Indian Line Farm – Model for Farmland Preservation & Conservation.
Peacework Organic Farm
Peacework Organic Farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm with 320 member families. There are 70 crops (vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, and flowers) raised organically on 18 acres. It demonstrates how to deal with the key problem of securing a new farm for an already successful CSA farmer.
Article based on a story by Elizabeth Henderson
Fordhall Farm shows how enterprising young farmers can engage with the community, mutualise the land and put it into trusteeship using the Industrial and Provident Society structure, raise the purchase capital from members and balance community access rights with farming needs. Ben and Charlotte Hollins were given a Schumacher Award in October 2006.
Fordhall is a 128-acre organic farm bordering Market Drayton, Shropshire. The Hollins family has farmed it as tenants for three generations. Charlotte and Ben Hollins launched The Fordhall Project in 2004 to save the farm. Fordhall Community Land Initiative (FCLI) was formed in February 2005 by a large group of supporters to buy the farm, secure it for community access and to keep the Hollins farming. The landowner agreed to sell the farm for £800,000 to FCLI by July 1st 2006.
FCLI was incorporated as an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) for the benefit of the community, and the Farm Appeal was launched on September 28th 2005. The purchase money was raised by July 2006, with extensive national and local media coverage. Over 7500 people bought £50 shares, raising £600,000, with £100,000 interest free loans and a £100,000 loan from Triodos Bank.
FCLI, having secured the farm, is leasing it to the Hollins, as Fordhall Farm Ltd. FCLI will continue to ensure permanently affordable access for farmers both for now and the future. It will develop viable educational, heritage, environmental, nature trail and social activities with the community for social, economic and cultural benefits.
Guild of St George
The Guild of St George was founded in 1878 with a gift of £7,000 by John Ruskin (1819-1900); it aims ‘to promote the advancement of education and training in the field of rural economy, industrial design and craftsmanship and appreciation of the arts’. Several properties were given to the Guild or acquired. Today it still owns the original 20 acres of forest in Bewdley given to John Ruskin, a further 100 acres of woodland and three small holdings which include the 13 acre acres at Uncllys Farm in the Wyre Forest at Bewdley, Worcestershire.
Wye Community Farm
This case study shows how hard it is for even a well resourced, connected and professionally highly competent potential community farm land trust to lease or buy land. Sheer dogged determination has led to the founding of Wye Community Farm with grazing rights on the Downs as a practical way forward, laying the basis of a community farm business that can later lease charitable owned land, or purchase. The recent Big Lottery Local Food Programme allows grants of up to £350,000 for land purchase, which could be very timely help for such projects.
Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch Farm
This is a community supported agriculture (CSA) venture in Forest Row, East Sussex. It owns two farm businesses with 700 acres about three miles apart, Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch Farms, and shows how a community can come together to secure the future of local enterprise and farm land.
Martin Venning and Simon Beavis conceived the Honeycomb Project in Summer 2006 as a Community Orchard initiative. There was an initial meeting with five potential stakeholders and supporters on September 15th at Penwith District Council Offices, Penzance with the CFLT Project. It is early days, but the Honeycomb Project, as a potential CFLT is offered as an example of a start up project.