WOW what a week of coverage. Firstly, Fordhall was featured on Escape to the Country on BBC 1 and now BBC Radio 4. The early morning show on Radio 4 every Saturday is Farming Today and we were profiled earlier today as a project who has tried to remove that big barrier to farming – high land prices.
Land values have doubled in the last 4-5 years as the demand for food increases, but the availability of land obviously does not. You will all know that land value was also the big barrier for Ben and I six years ago. Our answer was to place the land in community ownership – you are now the guardians of the land – and as farmers we look after it, producing food for you. The Radio 4 programme looks into the problems land values are having across the country and asks if the Fordhall way could be an answer – well at least part of an answer….maybe?
We were joined by fantastic journalist Charlotte Smith and wonderful land agent and Fordhall trustee, Jack Tavernor (Strutt and Parker), as we mucked out the shed, investigated the community garden and paced out an acre…
Buying a farm and expecting to pay that mortgage off on a farmers’ income is pretty impossible, but remove the land value, place it into the ownership of the people, and allow the farmers the security to tenant and farm the land on a long term basis and some of those barriers are suddenly removed, with many more benefits to the farmer and the community inbetween.
Each time a family farm goes on the market is is quite often broken up and sold off in lots to neighbouring farmers, with the house and a paddock sold for city escapes. This is because large farmers crave more land to help spread their overheads, the person selling can make more money from the sale, and no one can afford to buy it as one unit. – it is pretty inevitable.
Once split up and sold off, that farm will never become a family unit again. Furthermore, these larger farms do not employ more people because they have an extra field or two. As a result the opportunities for new people to enter the industry (of which there are many who want to) reduce once again. It is a difficult balance to achieve by farmers and the community alike.
Nonetheless, it seems such a shame to see this happening over and over again,and high land prices encourage this.
What if communities could join together, each not having to put in much money, but together they can become landowners of one or two family sized farms in their community. Farms which will produce food for them and their children, provide jobs and a living for their community, provide access to beautiful green space for everyone, and above all keep our farmland farming by people who care and supported by a community that cares.
Some may say idealistic or over ambitious, but the Fordhall Community Land Initiative is a living breathing example. Fordhall Organic Farm was saved in 2006 by 8000 amazing people – a number smaller than the population of most market towns and through people giving less than they would spend on a pair of trainers or a nice meal out.
Maybe this idea is not so crazy! What if we could all support even just a few of our local farms? What if farms could become the heart of communities once again? What about having the diversity of large farms and small family farms? Can this work? Is this what people want? Or are small family farms becoming a part of our history to enable the growing population to be fed?
Click HERE to listen again to the Radio 4 programme on Farming Today (only available for the next 7 days)