How investing in small scale sustainable farming is critical for the UK in a post Brexit world

Farming in Europe has been dominated by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which came into force in 1957. The CAP was aimed at supporting the EU’s food suppliers and worked to increase conventional agricultural production. In 2015, the CAP provided the UK with payments of around £3bn.

Most large-scale farms are heavily dependent on these kinds of subsidies. Small-scale farming has been sidelined and has been on a steady decline for the last 70 or so years.

As the UK moves towards the EU exit door this provides an ideal opportunity for the farming sector to fundamentally change the face of farming for the better. New approaches need to be adopted to once again encourage the rise of small scale farming, provide young people with greater access to land and opportunities to work the land in a way that benefits nature and above all else produces great quality food. It’s definitely no longer about factory farming on an industrial scale!

Please take a look at the video below from the Real Farming Trust, giving an introduction to 'Englightened Agriculture'.

The resurgence in growing food ecologically may provide some interesting solutions to the coming changes in how land is managed and ultimately farmed. The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) is a community benefit society that is co-operative in structure. Its mission is simple: the creation of residential smallholdings for new entrants to horticulture and mixed farming in England.

 Photo courtesey of Ecological Land Co-operative

The main challenges
It’s extremely difficult for new entrants to get into farming. Most have little to no possibility of buying a farm in England as the cost of land and rural house prices are extremely high. With an aging farming population (the average age of a farmer is 59) the sector is desperately in need of some fresh blood, and an injection of passion, vision and skills. We need to reduce the negative environmental impacts of conventional farming and plot a much more sustainable course.

The ELC has recognised this is a significant problem and have diligently worked to create a model that helps small scale sustainable land-based businesses get off the ground by helping to source land and provide the expertise in obtaining planning permission and establish initial farm infrastructure.

 Photo courtesey of Ecological Land Co-operative

The ELC model
The ELC buys agricultural land and seeks planning permission for new residential, ecological smallholdings. They then sell the holdings, below market value, on a long and secure leasehold creating new starter farms protected for farming, for affordability, and for sustainability in perpetuity.

ELC’s vision is one where land is valued by supporting the growth of ecological agriculture (combined with the benefits of increasing biodiversity and minimising pollution) and to ultimately revive the rural economy.

Their work is not possible without investment from their members. Having successfully developed their first cluster of farms in mid Devon, and begun work on their second site in East Sussex, the ELC is demonstrating that small-scale ecological farming can, and does, work.

Sustainably managed smallholdings provide low-impact livelihoods, regenerate marginal land and produce good food for local communities; they also increase landscape resilience, and improve the ecology and biodiversity for future generations.

 Photo courtesey of Ecological Land Co-operative

Investing for growth

However, replication and scale takes investment and like many social enterprises ELC is looking at new ways in which they can access additional funding. Working in close collaboration with Ethex, ELC has launched a public share offer running from 3rd April – 12th June to raise between £120,000 - £340,000 from retail investors who are keen to generate a social, environmental and financial return from their investments.

Supporting the ELC is not only about making more land available for a common good, but an investment in an ecological future — a future of sustainable land use, in harmony with the environment and for the creation of a living and working countryside.

To find out about the ELC and their work and how you can invest please visit https://www.ethex.org.uk/ecologicalland

https://www.ethex.org.uk/savings--investments_16.html

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