What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
Sustainable rural livelihoods – such as small- scale ecological food production – protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing fossil fuel use. Such businesses help build a vibrant, living countryside in which people flourish alongside our cherished landscapes and natural biodiversity, and have a important role to play in ensuring food and energy security. They also provide employment, access to local food and crafts, and educational opportunities for urban visitors, helping to maintain rural skills and to improve ecological literacy.
At the Community Connected Farms for Tommorrow conference in 2009, two major obstacles were identified as being in the way of small scale local food producers. The first, insecure and expensive land access is addressed by the Ecological Land Co-op’s work. The second hurdle recognised was that “there is a limited supply of young farmers who have both sustainable farming skills, such as trained organic and biodynamic know how, and the co-operative business skills needed to run community connected enterprises.” Now at Greenham Reach we also hope to help address the second hurdle though providing opportunities for visitors and volunteers to learn about this kind of small scale farming.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
Only 3% of farmers in the UK are under the age of 35.
We currently import 42% of the food we eat in the UK.
If all UK farming was ecological/low input a total of 158,000 new full time jobs would be created, in addition to the 159,000 already employed in agriculture, while in a post-fossil fuel era it is predicted that seven million part-time jobs could be created if more labour were to replace machinery
In England, the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)provides flat rate payments of £57/ha for moorland and £199/ha for Lowland. These are not linked to production, but are conditional upon certain greening measures and maintaining land in cultivatable condition. The bigger the farm, the more subsidies it gets. The per hectare direct payment system creates an extremely un-level playing field for small producers. Across Europe 20% of the farms get 80% of the CAP money. In the UK holdings of under 5ha do not receive payments anymore, as a result of DEFRA’s decision to raise the threshold for eligibility for BPS, during the recent CAP reform
'Feeding the Future: Small and Medium Scale Agro-ecological Farmers can address the Agricultural Challenges of the Twenty-First Century', report by the Land Workers Alliance, November, 2014
What is your solution?
Greenham Reach has been made possible through the dedication of the Ecological Land Co-op (ELC), to lower the hurdle of land access that small scale producers face, working to make it affordable, creating a co-operative structure in which the smallholders can support each other and share resources, and through providing legal advice and support.
Greenham Reach is working to prove that small scale farming can be sustainable, productive and a valuable resource to the local and wider community. Our success will contribute greatly to the success of the ELC in expanding their model to create similar sites across the UK, making it possible for more people to create small sustainable farms. As such, there is a growing demand to visit and learn from our project, which we would like to support and encourage.
How will you deliver this?
The tenants themselves are able to co-ordinate and practically achieve much of the work themselves, with the help of volunteers including on work days, however in some areas additional skilled labour would have to be bought in. They plan to use ecological, sustainable solutions, including local and eco-friendly building materials and methods, and second-hand equipment and materials where-ever possible to create the new facilities.