Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Bloody good idea" say NFU Farmers, By Charlotte

Ben and I attended the National NFU Conference in Birmingham on Monday and Tuesday this week. The two days were extremely interesting and a great inspiration to us both. We did our best to network with all the 'big wigs' of the farming industry, explaining the Initiative and asking for their support.

The farming industry is changing all the time and not always for the better. The problems faced by Ben and I as farmers, are mirrored in many other farms across the country and this was highlighted again at the conference, which only served to fuel our determination for the Initiative to succeed as an example to other farms across the country.

The Fordhall Community Land Initiative was created to overcome many of the difficulties such as high land prices, a lack of security in the market place and accessibility to farmland, for farmers. It has done this by placing Fordhall Farm in community ownership; for community benefit; for perpetuity; which in turn allows the public to be reconnected to the land, and to have access to farmland that is managed in a way that they want. The ultimate result is a structure that promotes sustainable development in society as well as in farming - it encourages, educates and promotes the pasture to plate cycle and that all important reconnection.

We spoke to many farmers at the conference about the Fordhall Community Land Initiative to see whether they supported the idea or thought is was crackpot! And they all said in their best farmers accent (although not at the same time of course):-
"Bloody Good Idea"
As we attend more of these networking events and conferences we are realising and learning about the national significance and benefits of putting farmland into community ownership. More farmers are looking for ways of securing their future and of helping to reconnect consumers and the public to farming and the landscape. Fordhall is growing everyday as an exemplar project and as the first of its kind in the UK all shareholders and supporters are playing a fundamental role in this.

YOU will OWN Fordhall Farm!

Many of you may have watched the documentary on BBC Midlands on Monday 27th February. It was an Inside Out film about the fight to save Fordhall and to open it as an educational and social resource promoting sustainable farming and healthy living.
The ten minute film covered the long history of the farm and the pressures it has faced from sprawling development. It was a very well put together piece, but unfortunately it did also serve to mislead.

We would just like to clarify that neither Charlotte or Ben Hollins will own Fordhall Farm. All share money and donations received are being fed into the Fordhall Community Land Initiative. This is an Industrial and Provident Society, which by law means that it is a 'society for the benefit of the community'. This society, which is owned by its shareholders - YOU, will own Fordhall Farm and will lease the land back to the Hollins family who will continue on as tenants.

Click here for other Frequently Asked Questions on the Fordhall Community Land Initiative.

Click here for more information on How the Initiative will work.

If anyone would like more information on this structure or the detail of the Initiative please do not hesitate to contact us at the farm on 01630 638696 or email on project@fordhallfarm.com

Monday, February 20, 2006

TV Fame

Watch out for us on BBC 1 Breakfast News Thursday 23rd Feb 7.40am and 8.40am...

Also - Monday 27th Feb we are on BBC 1 7.30pm Inside Out Documentary - apologies this is a regional broadcast, only in the midlands!

You heard it here first!!

Any requests for autographs can be made via email (he he!)

(ps. check out the great compost toilet in the picture - very classy)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Volunteering Mayhem

Last week Ben and Charlotte were followed by BBC One Life camera crew who are recording a 10 minute slot on the regional (Midlands) programme to be aired on 27th Feb, 7.30. The crew were all lovely and easily fitted in amongst all the volunteers. It should be a really interesting programme...certinaly tested their acting skills!

I'd just like to take the oppourtunity to say a huge thank you to all of our regular volunteers. We have 3 who come once a week and others who come for a weeks stint at a time. Some days I have to work from home for the morning simply because there is not enough room in our office to accomodate everyone. Its great stuff and the reliable support is really appriciated. Anything poeple can offer, no matter how small, is useful and reinforces the fact that this is a place for community activities.

Let this be a warning to any others who think they can just 'pop by'. Charlotte and I have a knack for getting people to work for us without them relaising until it is too late. Just today someone who is designing a database for us came round to teach us highly un-technical girls what to do, and within 10 minutes I had him sticking stamps for me. Its all about involving as many people as possible.

You have been warned!!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Volunteer Working Weekend

What an amazing weekend!

Both Saturday and Sunday saw 28 people throwing themselves into hedgelaying, fencing and tree planting with tremendous enthusiasm! There was a mixture of old volunteers and new, young and old, experienced and amateurs. The farm was alive with activity and a buzz was in the air.

This weekend also launched the beginnings of (hopefully!) a working relationship with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). Three wonderful trainers were at Fordhall all weekend putting volunteers through their paces and training them to a standard to recieve qualifications for tree planting and fence building.

This activity was funded by a generous grant from the Shropshire Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund and the 200 trees were donated by Shropshire County Council. Everyone who attended the weekend planted a tree.

One of the best things about the weekend was the way people talked amongst themselves. People commented that they were a little nervous about attending on their own but left in the afternoon feeling really satisfied with their day. They had met many others, all from a varied background and different areas of the country, but all at Fordhall for the same reason - to support its future.

This was the first weekend shareholders attended and it gave them an oppourtunity to be involved more directly in the development of Fordhall Farm and a chance to put something directly into it.

The varied activities throughout the weekend allowed volunteers to try new skills. One volunteer couldn't believe how much fun she had had building a post and wire fence, something she never imagined she would do. Others have found enthusiasm for hedge-laying.
It is absolutly vital that traditional skills such as these are kept alive and taught. Not only is a perfectly layed hedge fantastic for wildlife and conservation; the aesthetic value of it is outstanding.
We must send out a huge thank you to all the volunteers for all the hard work they put in over the two days. The results at Fordhall have been amazing and they will be there for generations to come.
Check out www.fordhallfarm.com for more photos and dates of future Working Weekends.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Beginnings of the Tenancy - Sophie

Last night the board met to dicuss the unique tenancy agreement between future landlord (FCLI) and the tenants (currently the Hollins family). This was the first of many meetings to come as it is vital that this document can relate not only to the immediate situation but can be applied to future generations.

Expert help is being generously dontated by Philip Meade from Davis and Meade Land Agents, Oswestry. Philip says "The future of everyone associated with the agricultural industry depends on there being a next generation of farmers to take over the stewardship and management of the countryside. I have been involved at Fordhall Farm for several years and was impressed by Charlotte and Ben’s commitment and hard work despite the difficult circumstances they faced and still face. If, as an industry, farming is to survive then we have to persuade the public that British farm produce is unique, i.e. we need to create the market NOT just react to it. Education is one of the most important ways we can do this and to me the Fordhall Farm project is exactly the sort of thing that should be encouraged"

It is important to make the message clear that it is possible for conservation and agriculture to work alongside one another and still be finicially sustainable. Increasing one does not mean sacrificing the other. Here at Fordhall, cherishing biodiversity has always been a priority and new was to increase this natural wealth are always being explored. We are proving that you can do it.