Welcome to our Winter Newsletter

What a year it’s been!

As we sign out for the festive season we’re all looking forward to a well deserved break. 

We’ve been very busy with developing our sites and tackling the planning permission process (Our applications for Sparkford, Furzehill and Orchard Park are moving forwards and we are feeling positive about the (all be it slow) progress being made all round!). Our farmers have been working tirelessly to grow food, establish and maintain their businesses and provide for their local community - whilst responding to the challenges faced by Covid-19 with creativity and care. 

Despite this new normal (which in many ways has highlighted even more so the need for creating and localising food economies) there’s a lot of opportunities within the agroecology movement. One such opportunity is the ELC's increase in capacity with the hiring of five new people which includes the creation of two new roles. Read on. 

Here's to a happy and healthy 2021 to you all

Solstice Appeal: Light the way for wildlife

UK agricultural land has seen serious declines in wildlife over the last 50 years. Much farmland wildlife has gone and we want to play our part in bringing it back. If you love birds, bees and all biodiversity, please make a donation this Solstice. With your help we’ll go out onto our sites early in the New Year to plant and repair hedgerows, restore/create ponds, carry out wildlife surveys and the like. Any Solstice gift you can make here will go towards the cost of this work. 

To demonstrate the importance and impact of the conservation work being done on our sites below is a selection of photos of the incredible wildlife that has been found - a result of increased habitat and ecological land management we are very proud of.

From top. A Yellow Hammer bird as found at Arlington during an ecologist's survey in summer 2020, caterpillars found at Sparkfood - one very much disguised as a twig!, a Red Admiral on a sage flower and a hedgehog in Steepholding's goat shed!

[yellow hammer photo credit to Andreas Trepte, www.avi-fauna.org]

Donate here


Here's a baby badger chasing Adam at Aweside Farm in Arlington, East Sussex
We're Recruiting

Following the successful delivery of our first two sites — clusters of three ecological small farms in Mid Devon and East Sussex — we are in the process of developing three further sites across the south of England and Wales. And we have plans to add five more small farm sites over the coming years.

To help us make this a reality we are recruiting a number of roles to expand our team.

- Communications Manager (1 day per week) 
- Fundraiser (2 days per week) 
- Site Development Manager (3 days per week) 
- Finance & Administration Manager (3 days per week) 

- Steward Support & Community Development Manager (2 days per week) 

Come, work with us. For more info and how to apply visit our website here.

*Closing date for applications: 4th Jan 2021* (25th Jan for the fundraiser role)

Treeplanting 2021!

Sparkford, South Somerset
Our 2021 tree planting session at our site in South Somerset will be on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th February 10am - 4pm. The planting will focus on extending the linear woodland that we started in February 2020 and replacing some failed trees. We are working with local organisation, Reimagining the Levels with a grant from Somerset Rivers Authority’s “Trees for Water” scheme.  The planting will provide shelter and visual screening as well as aiding the uptake of water from the site, thereby reducing pressure on the nearby River Camel.

RSVP to Amy: amywilloughbee@gmail.com
Sat 13th & Sun 14th Feb 2021
10am - 4pm

Address:
Sparkford Hill Lane,
Sparkford
Somerset
BA22 7HY

Orchard Park, Cornwall
Our fifth site is situated at Rilla Mill near to Bodmin Moor in North East Cornwall.

On the weekend of the 20th and 21st of February we will be holding a tree planting session to create a new hedgerow alongside a new boundary fence in the field. We aim to plant 650 trees which are being supplied by ‘I Dig Trees’.  Please let us know if you would like to take part. We will be observing social distancing throughout the plantings and will limit the number of people to 30.

RSVP to Klaudia: klaudiavangool@gmail.com
20th & 21st Feb 2021

10am - 4pm

[pic - a newly installed fence ready for some hedge planting!]
Due to current concerns, we will not be offering food sharing as we have done previously, so please pack a good lunch to bring with you on the day. Additional spades are always useful - especially if you have a favourite!
Scotland is next

We are very excited to announce ELC's collaboration with two great Scottish organisations who want to help new entrants in their nation to access affordable land for agroecological small farms. Sound familiar?

Over the coming year, ELC will share with the Scottish Farm Land Trust (SFLT), based in Edinburgh, the hard-won knowledge we've acquired since 2007 of subjects like land purchase, community consultation, planning and farmer recruitment. This will help SFLT put the finishing touches to their business model and bring them to the point where they can buy their first plot of land with funds from a community share issue they're planning with Community Shares Scotland to take place in 2021. The collaboration work will be led by Zoe Wangler and Sonia Sinanan of ELC, Roz Corbett of SFLT and Lynn Molleson of Community Shares Scotland and has been made possible by a grant of £22,541 agreed by Farming the Future in October.

On a different tack, ELC is regularly approached for advice by community organisations and cooperatives keen to buy a piece of land for agro-ecological purposes, but who don't know where to start. We've never previously had the resource to advise them, but during 2021, the funding will also allow ELC to better assist them: we'll be providing an online toolkit, guidance and webinars. Watch this space! 

Land In Our Names

Jumping Fences – understanding and addressing the barriers to access to land for agroecological farming for Black people and people of colour (BPOC) in Britain.

We are very excited about a new collaboration for the ELC with Land In Our Names (LION), a Black-led, grassroots collective committed to reparative justice in Britain by securing land for BPOC communities and the Landworkers' Alliance. The purpose of the project is to identify the barriers that BPOC face when considering a land based livelihood in Britain, to map existing and prospective BPOC led land-based businesses and organisations and to discover what challenges they face and how they seek to overcome them.

The research findings will be discussed with a wide range of organisations in the agroecology sector to identify ways to support BPOC new entrants to farming. The final intention of the collective effort is to strengthen LION’s capacity to become a community land trust, so that they can provide practical solutions for BPOC land stewards including access to land.

Join the ELC as a Director

Are you a member of the ELC? Would you like to play a more active part in the running of the organisation? We are looking for members to join the ELC Board of Directors.

The Board meets once a month (online at the moment, otherwise every other month in person), and would benefit from expertise in rural planning policy, land stewardship and agro-ecological farming, low impact development, organisation management and development, law and finance. We would particularly like the Board to be more diverse. All expenses incurred are paid for. If you are interested in finding out more please get in touch with Sonia for an informal chat by email: sonia@ecologicalland.coop.

 

Farm Updates
Cider Apple Trees, Sparkford, South Somerset
Sales for Cider Apple Trees have gone very well this autumn, almost selling out of full-standard cider trees. Lots of lovely eating and cooking apples still to go and plenty of 1 year maiden trees left. There has been fantastic growth on the 2 year cider trees this summer and autumn.

The team had apple juice made from a mix of eating and cooking apples collected locally - delicious! 

Preparing the winter storage area (sawdust pit) for the bare root trees (when they’re dug up and labelled ready for delivery from January to March). The hedgerows surrounding the plot are looking gorgeous, festooned with productive fruits. Sloes from the Blackthorn and hips on the Hawthorn. Winter tasks of preparing the ground for planting in Jan 2021 have also been taking place. Rolling out strong, thick, silage sheeting the team is experimenting with used tyres, hessian bags filled with mulch, logs and old fence posts, to work out which is the most efficient way to hold it down (and long-lasting enough to be rolled back up and stored).

Looking ahead we have another 1000 trees and rootstocks going into the ground (including a few plums) next year in the six new rows being prepared. We still have apple trees available to order. And you will be pleased to know whilst out in the fields we were accompanied by two kestrels sitting on raptor perches and feasting on the voles.

“Thank you ELC - we are loving our opportunity. Eight months in and having fun 'growing' in every way!”

Sarah & John
Elder Farm - Greenham Reach, Mid-Devon
Elder Farm has just installed its very own solar power system. This will be a great help with growing our business and expanding the range of products we sell. A new range to be launched in 2021 — watch the Elder Farm website for details!

A batch of fire cider is for sale that was made this year. ‘Fire cider’ is organic apple cider vinegar with horseradish, chilli, rosemary, thyme, nasturtium flowers and bay leaves grown at Elder Farm. Great for keeping healthy in the winter — take a tablespoon a day in hot water with honey. It's £6 for 100ml email helen@elderfarm.co.uk to order.

And the team have lots of lovely herb seeds for sale on our website. Start thinking about what you would like to grow next spring — Echinacea, chamomile, calendula and more available!

Helen & Stuart

Steepholding  - Greenham Reach, Mid-Devon
We have been very busy lifting our fruit trees which have grown really well this year in what is now beautiful soil thanks to all the organic matter that has gone in over the years. Along with all the weeding and mulching the trees have thrived. Deciding not to take trees to markets — so as not to hold up any one way systems chatting about fruit (!) — there has been loads of positive response and orders through the website. Steepholding is fully set up to post, deliver or arrange collections if anyone would like trees this winter. Gift vouchers have also been popular, and a great way to cheer people up in this funny old time. The veg box CSA is thriving with around 65 boxes continuing to go out weekly to Steepholding’s local community members.

Ruth & Alex

Aweside Farm - Arlington, East Sussex
Setting out to plant 2020 trees to mark the beginning of the year, team Aweside planted 2300 by February and by the end of the year hope to get a further 2000 in. Wow! Help over the last few weeks has come from all over, including LION (Land in Our Names) — see above — who have helped plant a new 200m hedgerow and the 1.5acre woodland.  

Selling winter salads into London restaurants and planting loads of edible flower for Spring has been a key recent focus, having launched our online edible flowers earlier in the year.

Alongside the mammoth tree planting sessions we have been busily prepping growing space for 2021 putting the final touches on the 130 growing beds and counting (50 more beds by the end of the year!). The BBC paid Sinead and Adam a visit for their ‘On Your Farm’ show.

Sinead & Adam of Aweside Farm featured on the prestigious BBC Radio 4's Gardeners Questions Time. The couple talked about the power of sowing seeds, our love for wildlife and some of our top tips on what edible flowers you can be sowing and growing now, ready for picking in the new year. Listen here (episode 28)

Sinead & Adam

Fanfield Farm - Arlington, East Sussex
Fanfield Farm has been a busy place preparing for next year building growing beds across three blocks (creating 72 beds for next season). That’s three times the space we have grown on this year, with the addition of a soft fruits block, an asparagus block and the fruit orchard. 

The colder season brings a little bit of a quieter time, enabling us to take the opportunity to focus on infrastructure, with finishing touches to our compost toilet for volunteers and visitors. We were lucky enough to volunteer at Vallis Veg Farm, owned by ELC Director Chris Smaje and his partner Cordelia, and were inspired by their designs!

Next year is a big year for Fanfield. We’ll be taking on an apprentice to help us in our voyage to 80 veg boxes, and want to train them up to be part of the future generation of land stewards.

Emily & Chris

Cae Tan CSA, Furzehill, Gower, South Wales
It’s been a good season growing for the Cae Tan gang. No bumper crops, but no failures either. Covid-19 restrictions didn’t have much of an impact. A busy little bubble of activity as the world around slowed, revved up over the summer holidays, then dropping into second gear as winter approached. Demand shot up for produce, as has demand for advice and support to other projects this autumn. It’s been a tough year for many but good times for CSA’s — especially those in walking distance from the beach! 
Tom O'Kane
The Rowan Tree, Furzehill, Gower, South Wales
Work on the plot has been progressing well this Autumn with 40 x 16 metre flower beds ready and partially planted up with a range of hardy annuals, bi-annuals, lots of perennials and spring bulbs.

Peeling back the black silage sheets used to kill off the grass in our various growing areas is a necessary labour — as useful as they are they’re not pretty to look at! These past few weeks we've started on the vegetable area and, with the help of a friend, barrowed load upon load of compost resulting in 20 more beds!

We’re also planning to buy hedging plants from a local community tree nursery for a 100 metre edible hedge, including rowan, bullace, crab apple, dog rose, hazel, elder and more. The hedge will run down the middle of our plot and will (in time) give much needed shelter to our flower crops from the prevailing westerlies. Trevor’s been scything a wide strip where the hedge will go, leaving the cut grass on the surface as mulch. When the time comes to plant the hedge, we’ll rake off the mulch, plant, and rake it back on as a weed-suppressing layer.

Even though the days are short and the weather’s not been friendly, we have been pushing ahead with a number of projects that need completing before the Spring: building a tool shed and a polytunnel, planting roses and shrubs and building a website — all exciting stuff ahead of the start of our first growing season in the Gower in 2021!

Trevor & Bettina

Flowers from the Farm Diversity Scholarship

Flowers From the Farm has launched a scholarship programme aimed at growers of colour who are considering a career in flower farming. As a not-for-profit co-operative of British flower growers, Flowers from the Farm would love to hear from any BPOC flower growers - with any level of experience - with a genuine interest and commitment to a career in flower farming. For more detail please read their blog post outlining the ideas behind the scholarship. The deadline to apply is 4th Jan 2021.

Green New Deal - Sign now!

It’s time for a green-shift. Nearly two million jobs could be destroyed by Covid-19. We can build back better in ways that serve our communities and our planet. Green New Deal UK, a non-profit organisation committed to social, economic and climate justice, is calling for the government to invest in creating green jobs for all to rebuild from the pandemic and fight climate breakdown.
Your voice matters. Sign now: 

A search for new sites - can you help?

We are on the look out for new sites! Exciting times. We would welcome any tips or leads — please get in touch by emailing sonia@ecologicalland.coop

Please be mindful that we are looking for land that fits into the below criteria at present.

  • 15-30 acres
  • has good vehicle access 
  • is south/east/west facing 
  • below 200m altitude
  • existing use is agricultural or woodland
  • maximum £10,000 per acre

However, we are open to different settings, scenarios and set-ups so please don’t assume. 

In the first instance email us with as much information as possible and we can continue the conversation from there.

ORFC Global 2021

The seven-day online event will give farmers, food producers, researchers, policy-makers, NGOs and all those who support a better food and farming system the chance to come together as a movement, exchange ideas, learn from each other and form new alliances across six continents.  It will also give us the chance to organise ahead of the climate ministers’ and heads of state gathering, COP26, which the UK is hosting in Glasgow in November 2021.

The ELC is hosting two sessions 

Access to Land: Case studies from Western Europe
Friday 8th January at 3pm UK Time
This session will hear from four projects in Western Europe pioneering ways of providing access to land for ecological food production and new entrant farmers. We’ll learn of different business models used in the UK, Germany (Regionalwert-AG-Freiburg) , Belgium (De Landgenoten) and France (Terre de Liens) to inspire different models across the world and give insights into the context in which these projects operate and the practicalities of making them work.

Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) – A Q&A about access to land with us
Weds 13th Jan 2pm UK Time
Are you thinking about applying to be a farmer with the Ecological Land Cooperative? Come to this Q&A session to get a better understanding of what’s on offer and meet the ELC team. We have plots available at our site in Cornwall and are actively seeking more land to create other farming opportunities. We are looking for passionate landworkers and ecological entrepreneurs to get started on our residential small farms. Some understanding of our model and entry requirements is important for this session.

Get your tickets here.

Agroecology Research Collaboration

The Agroecology Research Collaboration (ARC) is a recently established partnership between The Landworkers' Alliance, Community Supported Agriculture Network, Organic Growers Alliance and The Ecological Land Cooperative. The project aims to put the research needs of grassroots landworkers and their organisations more firmly on the agendas of universities and research centres. The appointed Research Coordinator, Kate Briton, will be creating a joint agenda of research priorities for our organisations and building a database of contacts with academics and university departments who might be able to help us meet those research needs. They will also be the person to whom research enquiries can be directed, and will be developing a guidance booklet to help research students/academics understand the needs of the landworker subjects who they want to research. The project will be led by a steering group composed of representatives of the ARC members. If you have ideas of research projects that would help move forward the agroecology movement in the UK email kate.briton@landworkersalliance.org.uk

Events, Media & Campaigns

Beginner’s kit for land initiatives
The Access to Land Network has launched a guide for access to land initiatives. Written by members of the European Access to Land Network, the document aims to help you ask the right questions and offer examples and ways to build an initiative that corresponds to your needs and capacities. This isn’t a blueprint. It’s a map of sorts helping nascent groups navigate their way to imagining and doing access to land for agroecological farming. Check it out.

Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time
January 4th – February 28th, 2021
This interactive online course run by ex ELC director Shaun Chamberlin is designed to build and inspire a global community of people who are seeking new insights to help themselves and their localities through these times of profound change. For more info visit Shaun's website here.

Who feeds us?
The folks at Farmerama Radio have produced a new audio series, ‘Who Feeds Us?’ 

The six episode series share stories of food producers affected by the pandemic. The series highlights how new connections have made between producers and consumers during these topsy-turvy times.

The aim of the podcast (and additional written stories) is to act as a resource to share with your neighbours, friends and customers to help communicate the importance of small-scale, regenerative food production and the wider food sovereignty movement. Have a listen.

 

 

We won an Award!

CPRE Sussex, the countryside charity, formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, has awarded our farmers at Arlington — alongside a host of other great projects across Sussex — a 2020 Gold Sussex Countryside Award. Twenty-seven awards were made by CPRE Sussex who said of us "Sussex is the second county in England to benefit from the work of ELC — opening doors to new eco-farmers." Other Gold Countryside Award winners included the Sussex Green Living Project, a network of initiatives motivating people to adopt greener ways of living and the Meet the Farmers Project, a group of South Downs farmers who are connecting with walkers via a series of interactive plaques. See if you can spot ELC stewards, staff and volunteers in CPRE’s video of winners. Well done to all!

Roundwood Building Course
April & Sept 2021
Join a four day intensive Roundwood Timber Framing & Reciprocal Roundhouse Building Course to learn about cutting the scribed, mortise and tenon joints, and reciprocal roundhouse roofing! Sounds like poetry, but this is carpentry in action using natural materials to model geometry expressed in wood. For all future barn builders, timber framers and those interested in learning practical skills. No previous experience necessary. Find out more and to book here.

A Complete Guide to Straw Bale Building
Permanent Publications have kindly offered ELC supporters a generous 25% discount on this comprehensive hands-on guide for straw bale builders – both self-builders and professionals. Check out the book here and use code STRAWELC which is valid until 31st January.

In Other News

A HUGE thank you to ELC donors
We recently received a £26,000 donation from a group of brothers who sold some land that had once been part of their grandfather’s smallholding. We will use the money towards a land purchase to enable affordable access to land for future ELC stewards. Thank you from all of us at the Ecological Land Cooperative.

Permaculture Association is hiring
Collaborators, supporters and purveyors of all thing permaculture, the Permaculture Association are hiring three new team members to continue their work of supporting permaculture projects across the UK and further afield. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the positions and about the organisation, please check out this page. 

Community shares rise, high street giants fall
Less than 10 years ago community shares were almost unheard of. Since 2012, £155 million has been raised by 104,203 people supporting more than 440 businesses. Co-operatives UK, of which we are a proud member, have published new research demonstrating the positive impact community shares has on businesses and communities across the UK. Take a look here.
And they’ve also usefully produced and collated a range of practical guides on Covid-19 advice for co‑ops here.

Good Food Oxford Report
The folk at Good Food Oxford — a network working for a better food system in Oxford — have produced a research report on access to land for food production with ELC as a case study. ‘Improving access to land for food production in Oxfordshire, which identifies the potential of Oxfordshire’s County Farm Estate to reallocate arable land into growing locally produced fruit & veg. And the radical notion that half a 5-a-side-football pitch per school in Oxfordshire could grow a portion of vegetables for every pupil each week! Read in full here.

Agrarian Trust 
The Agrarian Trust is a U.S. based organisation which supports land access for next generation farmers in USA. Patterned on the work of France’s Terre De Liens, this fundraising push by the Agraian Trust is an heartening example of a model which works and is close to our mission. Take a look to learn more about their wildly successful fundraiser.

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.