Welcome to our Spring Newsletter
The seasons are well and truly changing, with new shoots of spring growth emerging all around us. The ELC’s land stewards have been really busy on their respective plots, sowing seeds, preparing soil and putting the finishing touches to polytunnels for the growing season ahead. 

There has also been lots of change behind the scenes at the Ecological Land Cooperative. We say a fond farewell to our Communications Manager, Lauren, and our Fundraiser, Mary, and welcome many new staff members and directors (see below). We are also sowing seeds for the year ahead- we are on the lookout for land to create six new smallholdings this year, and are about to launch our Open Share Offer- please see below.

We hope you are enjoying the spring sunshine as much as we are!

The Ecological Land Cooperative team

Welcoming new staff and directors

Dylan Lindo Jones - Finance and Administration Manager dylan@ecologicalland.coop
Dylan became aware of the potential of and need for small-scale ecological farming through his work with an organic farm in the Quantocks. Before retraining as an accountant, Dylan worked for several years as a community musician and teacher and continues to carry on this work alongside his role at the ELC. He currently lives in the UK's first zero-carbon social housing project in St George, Bristol.

Luciana Edwards - Communications Manager communications@ecologicalland.coop
Luci has spent the last decade working within communication roles for small scale environmentally focused organisations. Whilst studying a BSc in International Development, Luci became fascinated with agroecology and organic horticulture and has since gained an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture. Alongside her communications work, Luci is also a grower for the Sharpham Trust in Devon. 

Stella Peyerl - Site Development Manager stella@ecologicalland.coop
Stella is a permaculturist and eco-builder, with over 25 years of experience in organic and permaculture food growing. Her professional background is in the community, events, and education sectors, managing the Green Architecture Day sustainable design conference and being an eco-schools assessor for Keep Britain Tidy. Stella can also be found installing living roofs, building composting systems, and enjoys natural beekeeping. As the ELC’s Site Development Manager Stella is responsible for finding land and developing sites before handing them over to new entrant farmers. 

Cathy Yexley- Fundraiser cathy@ecologicalland.coop
Cathy has been fundraising for nearly 30 years in many organisations including Shelter and the RNIB. For the last 13 years, she has worked at the National Portrait Gallery securing donations from both individuals and grant-giving bodies for all its activities including building works, participation projects and acquiring portraits. Alongside her new role at the ELC, she is a trainee grower at OrganicLea’s Hawkwood site.

Chris Maughan - Director
Chris Maughan is an Assistant Professor of Agroecological Knowledge and Innovation Systems at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University. He is a transdisciplinary researcher specialising in sustainable food systems, his work drawing on years of experience as a community food grower. His research interests include the role of popular education, grassroots innovation, and inclusive governance in the development of agroecological food systems. He is currently leading a British Academy funded project analysing the processes of horizontal knowledge exchange in agroecology networks. 

Dawn Muspratt - Director
Dawn Muspratt has a diverse background having worked in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors focusing on sustainability and inclusion. Dawn began working as a community development worker in central London working with young people and communities from very diverse backgrounds. From there she joined a consumer organisation working on organisational development before engaging in environmental sustainability, developing renewable energy and energy supply with a focus on fuel poverty.

Help us find land for six new farms

The Ecological Land Co-operative’s vision of a living, working countryside is to provide affordable opportunities for ecological land-based livelihoods in England and Wales.

We need agricultural land to create residential smallholdings for new entrants to ecological agriculture; land for anyone who wants to grow healthy food and produce for local communities. We would like to acquire land for at least six new small farms this year. Land for sale is in short supply at the moment and so we are asking for your help.

We are looking for parcels of land which we will protect for ecological agriculture in perpetuity. We would love a donation but can also buy land and will also consider a long lease at a peppercorn rent.

We are looking for land with the following characteristics:

  • between 5 and 40 acres
  • with a price under £375,000 in total
  • reasonable grade, cultivable land, below 250m
  • ideally flat ground, or southern aspect (or SE/SW) ideally limited or no steep slopes!
  • with a water connection
  • with direct vehicle access off the road
  • situated where our development would not seriously affect the visual amenity of others
  • and with no overage, clawback or uplift provision attached

If a piece of land does not meet all the criteria we’re still interested in hearing about it.

Search area: Anywhere south of the line from Aberporth to Banbury to Kings Lynn. 

If you have land to donate or know of land for sale or rent then please get in touch with Stella, our new Site Development Manager stella@ecologicalland.coop.

2021 Open Share Offer

"The Ecological Land Cooperative is a small organisation with big ambitions, and for that I applaud it. Helping smallholders access to land and ensuring land is managed ecologically is truly vital work. As an investor, seeing that good principles are more than an abstract ideal which can be put into practice, gives me great satisfaction and hope."
ELC Investor Member

We've had a lot of interest in investor membership since our share offer closed early last summer and so we've decided to relaunch our open share offer. We're offering the opportunity to become an ELC investor member with a minimum investment of only £150 (or £50 if you are local to one of our sites) and a maximum investment of £5,000, and we're offering up to 3% interest on share capital annually.

Find out more and download an application form

Ecological Land Coop AGM

Our AGM is one of the most important events in the ELC calendar. This year it will take place on 12th June, between 2 pm and 4.30 pm. Please save the date! We hope it will be possible for us to meet face to face at our site in Sparkford, Somerset. There are a variety of factors for us to consider in deciding this, including delays to the government's timetable to ease lockdown restrictions.

Welcome to members and non-members alike. More details will be sent in due course - but if you'd like to RSVP now or have any questions then please email members@ecologicalland.coop

Planning Update

Pandemic related delays continue to slow the progress of our applications however, there is some news to feedback.

Sparkford  - We are still hopeful of a positive recommendation from the Case Officer for our Sparkford application. However, all agricultural planning applications in Somerset are experiencing additional delays. A recent ruling has meant additional assessments are required for developments that may contribute to phosphate loading on the Somerset Levels and Moors designated wetland sites. We have submitted documentation to demonstrate that our proposal will not have a negative impact on phosphate levels. However, as this is a new area for the local planning authority (LPA), there is no clear timeline of how long it will take for this issue to resolve. That being said, we are expecting to hear back from the Council within the next week or two. Fingers crossed.

Furzehill -  Revised documentation for the One Planet Development application was submitted in November following an extended consultation period and the agricultural assessor has now submitted his report to the council. We are meeting the Case Officer in mid-April to discuss the progress of the application. Meanwhile, on-site Trevor and Bettina (The Rowan Tree)  have now erected their polytunnel, following the LPA decision that prior approval was not required.

Orchard Park - The pre-application enquiry response was received earlier this year, and generally felt supportive of our proposal, whilst outlining some issues which we needed to make sure we addressed. The full application is due to be submitted any day now - we are just waiting to receive some extra plans and external reports. 

Farm and Site Updates
The Rowan Tree- Furzehill, The Gower, Wales

It’s been an eventful and productive few months since we last reported from Furzehill. 

Since mid–June last year we’ve established two cut flower areas, including two hoop cloches and a windbreak fence as protection against the prevailing South-Westerlies. The beds are thriving, and should soon provide us with some income through sales to the public, florists, and local box schemes and shops.

We’ve also prepared a large block of vegetable and herb beds, and are exploring avenues for vegetable sales through local grocers, a bakery and a box scheme. We’re also looking at the possibility of our own box scheme. The interest in locally grown produce has skyrocketed and it would be lovely to build relationships with residents.

Making good use of the bare-root planting season we’ve also started establishing our soft fruit area, which now features autumn-fruiting raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries.

The erection of a large polytunnel was completed last week with the generous help and expertise of friends and colleagues. On the night of its completion, it withstood a 72mph gale with no damage! Bettina is now preparing the tunnel beds, and Trevor is building a staging for this season’s seedlings - thankfully we can eat on our dining room table again!

Bettina and Trevor

 

Orchard Park, East Cornwall

Orchard Park is ELC’s most recently bought land located in East Cornwall. We have started the planning application process to the local authority and are getting interest from lots of potential smallholders.

In February, the site hosted a tree planting day led by site manager Klaudia. Over 600 trees were planted including oak, alder, beech, silver birch, blackthorn, hawthorn, field maple, willows and rowans. 17 volunteers attended, with staggered time slots meaning people could work at a suitable distance.

Despite rain in the morning, the day was a great success, with all trees planted, staked and protected. People were grateful to be out doing something positive, and meeting others at a distance. The day finished with a walk of the land giving people an opportunity to understand the project and connect with it.

Thank you to the kind donors to our Winter Solstice Appeal who helped this event to happen.

Klaudia

 

Allwood Farm, Martinsfield, East Sussex

Hello from Bryony, Ben and baby Phoenix at Allwood Farm. We are the newest stewards in the co-op, having moved onto our plot of land on Martinsfield in early February.

We are excited to be creating our farm that, after many years of being involved in organic farming, has been a long time in the making. We have plans to create an agroforestry farm, eventually producing herbs within tree lanes to be processed into herbal products.

 It has been an enjoyable but challenging start. We knew it wouldn’t be easy moving off-grid into a mobile home in winter with a 3-month-old baby, but there have been a few surprises we didn’t anticipate. These have included difficulties transporting our mobile home from the road onto the site in freezing weather and gales damaging our polytunnel straight after we put it up.

We also didn’t anticipate how great it would be to be part of a land co-operative. Our neighbouring stewards have made us feel so welcome, sharing their knowledge and time with us. From helping to move our mobile home, helping to put covers on our polytunnels, bringing us cake and even offering to look after baby Phoenix. The staff at the ELC have also been an incredible support, welcoming us to the site as best they could during the lockdown. It has made us feel really connected at a time when it has been difficult to see our families.

Since moving on the plot we have been preparing for the growing year ahead. We now have thousands of seedlings ready to be planted out and have our polytunnel ready to go. 

To find out more about our farm, you can check out our website, become a workshare member, or get involved in our spring volunteer days on the 10th of April and 8th of May.

Bryony, Ben and Baby Pheonix

 

Aweside Farm, Martinsfield, East Sussex

We’ve had a busy few months at Aweside Farm. Our intern, Gabriele, started in March as part of the EcoTalent Programme and will be with us until winter. 

The 2000 trees that were planted last November are beginning to kick into life and we're seeing lots of leaves popping up each day in the woodland and hedgerow saplings.

We've also received funding from the Landworkers Alliance and National Lottery fund to develop our social enterprise, the Aweside Food Project C.I.C. which will address food insecurity. We'll be linking up with food aid projects in Eastbourne to supply organic veg grown in our community garden. We also plan to provide opportunities for access to land particularly for marginalised groups and want to grow culturally appropriate food for people from different demographics.

We're also launching weekly volunteering from May in the community garden where people can learn about growing and help produce food that will support those facing food insecurity.

Sinead and Adam

 

Fanfield Farm, Martinsfield, East Sussex

We currently serve fifty households a week with seasonal veg boxes which will rise to eighty in May with our Spring Summer Share Boxes, which is very exciting. We’ve increased our beds from twelve to eighty this year, and have added an orchard, soft fruit and perennial blocks, and will be dedicating a huge space to winter squash production too. We feel a lot more prepared than this time last year as we had created just 4 beds and didn’t have our polytunnels up!

We will be supplying pubs and restaurants again when they reopen and will have a space dedicated on the farm to salad production. 

We have received funding through the government Kickstarter campaign and now have two members of staff for 25 hours a week for 6 months. We inducted them on Monday and have laid out what we believe is a great traineeship for them. We had a slow start to the year with volunteers with the Covid situation, however, we were delighted to welcome volunteers back in March. We have hosted some great local volunteers- it feels wonderful to have people back on the farm, learning and experiencing nature and food growing. We are open for volunteers every Wednesday 10 am-4 pm. See our website for more details

Chris and Emily

 

Elder Farm, Greenham Reach, Mid Devon

We are full tilt seed sowing and getting ready for spring at Elder Farm. We are really excited to see some of the more unusual things we grow springing back into life like Pasque flower and Rhodiola.

To find out more about us and have a look at our herbal products please visit our website

Helen and Stuart

 

Cider Apple Trees, Sparkford, Somerset

This winter John & Sarah Whittick have been having their busiest season yet. Their business Cider Apple Trees are on our Sparkford site in South Somerset, renting 2 acres whilst awaiting residential farm planning permission.

Along with their son Fred, who assists them part-time, they have fulfilled orders for nearly 100 customers. From an eating apple tree for a back garden; to a memorial tree for a much-loved pet dog;  new orchards for juicing, cider and eating; to gap-filling cider trees in old orchards.

Sarah explains: “Apple trees are sold bare-root when dormant over the winter months. After a slow start due to heavy rain and snow, we have had a fully packed February and March, digging trees and delivering all over the South West.”

John’s skills as a nurseryman have been shown to the full this season. “I have been out grafting for customers – changing the variety over in cider orchards and young bush trees inserted with a single new graft variety. Fred & I have also helped keep rabbit damaged trees alive with 2 different forms of bridge-grafting and grafted 6 different varieties onto a Newton Wonder tree, as a demonstration tree in the nursery.”

In the future, John and Sarah would also like to run grafting, budding and other orcharding courses from the farm and look forward to the opportunity to see those dreams come to fruition.”

They have welcomed lots of new spring babies to their family too, which you can see on their Instagram feed,  including quail, geese, chicks and lambs, and can’t wait to have the animals, tree business and home all together on their plot at Sparkford - fingers-crossed it will be soon!

John & Sarah 

In Other News

Kindling Trust Share Offer
Our good friends at Kindling are seeking people to invest in the future of food and farming. They have a community share offer to establish Kindling Farm and you can invest from £200.

Check out this exciting new opportunity to support the establishment of an agroforestry farm in the NW of England.

 

Sustainable Farm Incentive pilot launched
On 15th March, Defra launched its Sustainable Farm Incentive pilot. The aim is to provide farmers with a way to get paid for producing public goods such as cleaner water, cleaner air and carbon reduction. Farmers will be paid for environmentally sustainable actions such as managing and planting hedgerows. To find out more about how this will affect organic and agroecological farming please visit the Soil Association’s website.


Landworkers' Alliance are recruiting
The Landworkers' Alliance is recruiting for a Campaigns Communications Coordinator.
For this exciting and engaging 3 day a week role, the LWA are seeking a skilled communicator who understands the complex issues and dynamics surrounding food, farming and land use in the UK and internationally to research, write, develop and deliver communications that highlight and promote the campaigns work the LWA are undertaking.  

Deadline 2nd May. For more information, see the Landworkers' Alliance website 

Calls for UK Agroecology Development Bank
A new report from the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Farming Smarter: Investing in our future, urges the UK government to establish an Agroecology Development Bank, to enable agricultural and rural transformation. There remain significant barriers in the transition towards agroecological farming practices – particularly for young and new entrants, and tenant farmers- due to a lack of the right kind of private finance available at the pace and scale required. Find out more. Also, lookout for a new report from the New Economics Foundation on financing the transition to agroecology, which our own Director Oli Rodker contributed towards.


The Organic Research Centre turns 40 
When the ORC was founded, as Elm Farm Research Centre, forty years ago it was done so with a pioneering spirit and a genuine desire to push the boundaries and discover how organic farming practices could be incorporated into UK agriculture. 

That quest for knowledge has helped to develop practical and sustainable solutions for the industry. Find out more on the ORC website.

Not seen it yet?
Watch our new film about the work of the Ecological Land Cooperative featuring some of our wonderful farmers at Aweside FarmFanfield Farm and Elder Farm

Thanks to the brilliant filmmaker Jason Brooks and all our members making our work a reality.