The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) is working to make land accessible for new entrants to small-scale ecological farming in England.
It has identified two key barriers for those who wish to live with the land – high land prices and planning consent – and now works to solve these issues by owning the freehold of each smallholding to protect it for agricultural use and keep it affordable. By buying larger sites for a lower price, the ELC has spread the cost of infrastructure, planning applications and ecological site monitoring across the smallholdings. The three smallholdings operate as independent businesses but work co-operatively to manage the sites and offer mutual support.
Shaun Chamberlin, when chair, wrote in depth here:
http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-04-28/the-law-of-the-land and Cate Chapman, managing director, describes ELC’s vision “of a living, working countryside contributing to a bio-diverse environment, strong rural communities and a safe, just food system.”
In May 2015 Anna Hill visited Greenham Reach in Devon – more opposite – but the link tells us that this BBC programme is no longer available.
In 2016 James Sullivan reported in the Co-operative News that ELC raised money through a loan and community share offer to purchase an 18.5 acre field in East Sussex to continue carrying out its vision of developing small-scale, sustainable farms. The loan came from the A Team Foundation – an organisation founded to improve food access, quality, education, research and environmental stewardship through funding projects and charitable organisations.
Oli Rodker, executive director for the ELC, said: “We are delighted with the purchase of our new site in East Sussex. We can now get on with our plans to use this land for ecological farming where good food, conservation and ecology sit side by side – now and into the future.” Alongside the three at Greenham Reach, and the cluster at the new site in East Sussex, ELC aims to create 20 ecological smallholdings by 2020.
In order to present the work they do, as well as introduce some of the team, the ELC has also launched a short film featuring footage shot at the smallholdings.
Political support would be welcomed. There are precedents: in Wales, a “One Planet Development” policy was approved in 2010, making it easier for exceptionally eco-friendly land-based projects to secure planning permission. In France, last autumn a new law was passed committing to agroecology on 200,000 holdings by 2025, to training future farmers accordingly, and to the allocation of land to young farmers to help them get started . . .
Our lead came from Shaun Chamberlin, former Chair of the Ecological Land Co-operative, who has also been involved with the Transition Network since its inception, co-founding Transition Town Kingston and authoring the movement’s second book, The Transition Timeline (Green Books, 2009). www.darkoptimism.org