Ecological Land Co-op Opening New Market Gardens, BBC Farming Today

Tony Gosling tony at
Mon May 11 12:10:10 BST 2020

Buying Agricultural Land, Dividing It Up For 
Market Gardens. Ecological Land Coop, BBC Farming Today

06/05/20 - Small farms and market gardening

<>Farming Today
The Ecological Land Cooperative says small farms 
could and should play an important role in the 
future of our food system. It buys agricultural 
land, then divides it into small-holdings, gets 
planning permission for houses on each one then 
sells or rents the plots at well below market 
value. The idea is to allow new entrants into 
farming without the need for huge capital. We 
find out more and visit a vegetable farm in Devon 
that grows more than 50 varieties of veg on less than an acre.
Presented by Anna Hill
Produced by Heather Simons

BBC link - expires in 24 days time (stupidly)

ELC 2020 Share Offer
Small farms, big solutions -- join the ELC as an investor member

An ageing population of farmers, losses of small 
and family farms, huge barriers to land ownership 
and an unprecedented environmental crisis see the 
social enterprise Ecological Land Cooperative 
(ELC) announce a new Community Share Investment 
Offer. The ELC’s plans for a mosaic of small 
ecological farms will regenerate rural areas - 
putting healthy food and a healthy planet centre stage.

<>Become an investor member here.

Shockingly perhaps nearly half the land in the UK 
is owned by just 25,000 people – less than 1% of 
the population. And much of that land is 
dominated by industrial methods of production 
that come at great cost to the natural world. Yet 
there is another way. There is huge potential for 
the growth of agroecology - agriculture that 
works together with natural ecology.

Since 2009 the ELC has worked to develop 
affordable, low impact, small farms for 
ecological agriculture that can improve soil 
health, boost biodiversity and invigorate rural 
communities. Supporting small-scale, ethically 
minded farmers, the ELC is the only national 
organisation in England and Wales to offer 
residential farms for ecological land users. A 
member-led social enterprise, the ELC challenges 
the twin barriers facing new entrants to farming: 
high land prices and legal permission (planning consent).

Oli Rodker, Site Development Director, for the 
ELC, says: “For far too long land ownership has 
been concentrated and land skills have been lost. 
We need more people involved in ecological food 
production and more people working the land in rural communities.

The climate crisis and nature crisis tell us we 
need to act urgently to improve how we manage 
land. ELC’s passionate and innovative farmers can 
do this, while producing the healthy food that we 
need. Small agro-ecological farms allow for a 
better understanding of nature and are 
cornerstones in reversing environmental ruin.

By backing our vision and investing in our 2020 
share offer you are giving us the chance to 
create more farms, protect land and speed up this 
transition to agro-ecological land use. By 
supporting us you are supporting rural communities, nature and the climate.”

Access to Land

There are five ELC sites: from Cornwall to East 
Sussex and the Gower to Somerset. In 2017, 
£440,000 was raised to create these farms. The 
aim for the 2020 appeal is raise up to £400,000 
to develop more sites - with a target of creating 
18 new small farms on six new sites by the end of 
2023. By doing so ecological agriculture becomes 
a recognised and practical way to address the 
issues of climate change, rural underdevelopment 
and getting new entrants into farming.

There are multiple small farms on each site – 
enabling skill sharing, community and diversity 
of production. A variety of products are grown 
from salad and veg to herbal medicine, goats 
cheese and apple trees with 99 acres of land so 
far returned to eco farming practices.

Sinead and Adam are two new ELC farmers. Growing 
up in the urban context of London and Essex, the 
prospect of farming was a distant dream for them.

Yet their deep interest in the natural world and 
where our food comes from propelled them to 
volunteer at the urban farm Audacious Veg in 
South London. It turned out that growing was 
infectious, and their hobby soon became a career 
when they took over operations on the farm.

Impassioned about the urgent need for more 
ecological agriculture in the UK, that can fix 
our broken system and provide healthy food to 
local communities, they set their hearts on 
farming their own land as a profession and way of 
life. The pure joy that the diversity of plant 
life, colour and insect population brought to 
them stirred a deep longing to do more. But with 
land prices at £9000/acre their aspiration seemed impossible.

Thanks to the support of the ELC, they can now 
start their enterprise to grow an astonishing 
array of edible flowers, cut flowers, herbs, 
heritage veg and leafy greens on their farm in 
East Sussex. This is all done through 
regenerative farming practices like "no-dig’ 
which works to undo the damage of intensive 
farming by rebuilding soil structure and locking 
carbon into the soil. These methods reduce the 
need for pesticides and fertilisers whilst 
boosting biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s no secret that access into farming for new 
entrants is really hard in the UK,” says Sinead. 
“Given our backgrounds growing up in cities with 
no links to food and farming, the chances of us 
being able to pursue livelihoods in this sector were going to be slim.”

Sinead and Adam are just two of an increasing 
number of custodians of ELC land, growing, 
nurturing and harvesting for what they 
passionately believe is a better future. With 
help from the new round of financing the hard 
work of the ELC can spread to other rural areas. 
The model allows the ELC to keep costs low, both 
through buying larger sites at a lower price per 
acre, and through distributing the cost of 
infrastructure, planning applications and 
subsequent site monitoring across a number of 
farms. The model allows the farmers to work and 
learn together and to provide mutual support. The 
cooperative retains the freehold on each farm in 
order to protect it for affordable agricultural 
and ecological use in perpetuity.

An ethical yet smart investment

It works for investors too who are offered a 3% 
interest on share capital annually. One investor 
commented: “I felt compelled to support the ELC, 
even if a small contribution. It seems to be the 
only organisation dedicated to tackling the major 
causes of our current social, environmental and 
economic predicament. ELC is dedicated to 
supporting ordinary people to access land, and to 
manage it in an ecological way, which most people 
could not afford to do on their own. Not only 
that, the land is nurtured to grow local, 
healthy, environmentally-sound food and 
regenerate the local economy. The ELC is also 
structured as a horizontal, democratically 
accountable cooperative, with a proven record in 
helping people achieve these aims - a very sound investment for the future.”

The ELC 2020 Share offer is looking to raise 
between £120,000 and £400,000 in ten weeks. 
Working with 
<>Ethex, a 
socially conscious savings and investment 
platform, the share offer will raise finance for 
the development of ecological small farms for new 
entrant farmers - those that wouldn’t otherwise 
be able to afford to access land and start farming.

Find out more at 

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