Sky-high land and rural housing costs, alongside planning red tape, have proved almost insurmountable barriers for new would-be farmers. But the Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) is breaking the mould when it comes to small-scale agricultural developments.
Its first project in Greenham Reach, Devon, created three new smallholdings on the 22-acre site. And the successful model is set to be expanded following today's (Monday April 3) share offer launch.
Zoe Wangler, Director and Planning Specialist for ELC, said: "New entrants to farming have almost no possibility of buying a farm in England: the cost of land and rural housing is just too high. New farmers have the passion, vision and skills needed to reduce the negative environmental impacts of conventional farming and globalised food distribution.
"Small farms are also vital to rural communities, helping to support other small rural businesses and services. We offer investors the opportunity to be part of the development of sustainable small-scale farming in England, and to contribute to a body of collective action working for a safe food system, vibrant rural communities and a bio-diverse natural environment."
ELC is the only organisation in England to offer affordable, ecological residential smallholdings. The community benefit society purchases agricultural land before subdividing it into a number of ecologically managed residential smallholdings. These smallholdings are sold at far below market rates, on long and secured leaseholds.
The Co-operatives UK member draws on the advice of organic farmers, ecologists, soil experts, transport advisers, planners, prospective customers and those living locally and with local knowledge, before planning a new smallholding cluster - including a binding whole site ecological management plan.
Involving stakeholders such as the local community, wildlife trust and farming communities at the earliest stages, the ELC then present their plans to the planning authority before submitting for planning permission. It is now working with Ethex, a positive savings and investment company, to raise between £120,000 and £340,000 for the development of six new starter farms though its latest share offer. Members of the public can invest from as little as £500 right up to £40,000.
To find out more about ELC’s work and their share offer visit: https://www.ethex.org.uk/ecologicalland.