Biodynamic Land Trust
The BDLT aims to secure farmland in trust for affordable access for biodynamic farmers, for conservation, public access, sustainable and community connected farming and education.
Key facts and figures
History and mission
– 37 acres saved from sale on open market for Tablehurst Farm Coop ongoing use.
– Rush Farm (160 acres) saved from Bank sale for family and biodynamic agriculture into the future
– Support and advice for a number of groups interested in setting up local farms
– Initiating a national land access action research proposal
– Supporting growing interest and awareness of the issues and needs regarding land for sustainable farming in the UK.
In the UK, key land issues are: speculative bubble, privatisation of public land, farmland prices very high (way above agricultural value), farmland seen as investment facility, ever increasing size of agro-industrial farms that grab all available land.
What started us working on land access:
1. Local and national needs:
– CSA needs for farm land (e.g. Stroud CSA);
– Preserving family organic farms for young farmers (e.g. Fordhall Farm);
– Needs of biodynamic farmers to:
- Preserve existing BD farms from being sold and lost to biodynamic farming (e.g. Rush Farm)
- Access to land for entrant and young farmers
- Needs by BD farms for more land (e.g. Tablehurst Farm cooperative)
- Land for strategic BDA projects like seeds and bees
2. The support and a generous donation of seed money for this work
– To secure farmland in trust for affordable access for biodynamic farmers (sustainable and affordable leases), for conservation, public access, community-connected farming and education.
– To become a viable social business within 3-5 years.
– To develop ways for people to re-connect with land.
– To develop effective ways to give and or invest in land and land based business
– To work nationally and internationally for access to land for sustainable and biodynamic farming
A co-operative Community Benefit Society - registered with the Financial Conduct Authority in November 2011, with charity-at-law status. About 50 members, with seven Board members bringing diverse skills, expertise and experience.
Community Benefit Societies are a form of cooperative structure with a set minimum and maximum share value (in our case £100 - £20,000 of shares; our shares may be sold back to the organisation at face value and offer no interest). Members (shareholders) have one vote whatever their quantity of shares. The organisation has to report annual benefit to the community. Charity status allows tax-back on donations and exoneration from certain other taxes (stamp duty, tax on ‘profit’ … )
Results so far
The main activities to date have been:
– Supporting farmers and groups in relation to their potential land/farm projects,
– Supporting farmers thinking of bequeathing their land,
– Acquiring farmland and raising funds for this,
– Raising awareness in local groups and through national association and conferences,
– Providing training and advice to groups regarding supportive legal formats and systems for acquiring land in shared and cooperative ownership and putting together a farm development plan.
Key partners are the Biodynamic Association (BDA), Stockwood Community Benefit Society, and the Soil Association Land Trust.
Since 2011, the Biodynamic Land trust achieved the following:
– Seed capital secured (£1mn);
– 37 acres secured for Tablehurst Farm;
– 160 acres Farm secured into Stockwood CBS as a partner organisation with the BDLT as Custodian;
– Tried and tested co-op share offers for raising capital (£50,000 approx. raised).
– Other projects are currently in progress.
– Growing awareness nationally of concerns about small sustainable farmland ownership.
– Interest in a national organisation to support access to land for sustainable farming.
– Developing image, trust, credibility, competence;
– Develop wills and a land bequest process and information;
– Securing core organisation costs, e.g. invest in renewable energy;
– Financing paid time for project work with uncertain outcomes;
– The speculative land bubble from investors seeking land as a real/financial assets;
– Education work for land as commons;
– Advocacy /action research e.g. Letchworth Garden City Conference
> Our website offers many resources about the BDLT (Feasibility Study 2011; Rules and legal structure; investment policy; etc.) as well as many land access resources, articles, blogposts
> The UK national network of Community Land Trusts, the UK national body of Community Land Trusts from both urban and rural areas
> Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS), a collaborative service aiming to increase community access to land across the UK
> Common Wealth : Chapter 10, Land for People and Communities in Martin Large, Common Wealth, (2010)
>The Community Farm Land Trusts project, a two-year action research project to enable the development and establishment of Community Farm Land Trusts (2005-7)
> Learn more about the farms for which we have secured land:
• Rush farm, a biodynamic mixed family farm in Worcestershire
• Tablehurst Community Farm, a ten-year-old community supported agriculture project in Forest Row, East Sussex. See also Neil Ravenscroft and Rachel Hanney, Tabelhurst and Plawhatch Community Farms, a case study, 2011