Community farming - how it works at Tablehurst
“A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living” R. Steiner
The ownership arrangements that have been adopted for Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch farms look rather complicated on first acquaintance, but they do actually make sense.
There are several ways you can get involved with a thorough understanding of how things work being a recommended starting point so do read on and feel free to email us with further questions!
In each case, the land and buildings are in the hands of a landowner. While we do rent from private landowners, and from Michael Hall School, much of our land is in trust, owned by St Anthony’s Trust and the Biodynamic Land Trust; these are both charitable trusts – thereby permitting charitable giving to be channelled to our initiative and helping to protect the farms’ assets in perpetuity in the event that either of the businesses should fail.
The farm businesses are both owned by “the Co-op”, which is an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) (http://www.tablehurstandplawhatch.co.uk/). This is a form of legal entity similar to a company in that it is owned by shareholders, but different from a company in that every shareholder has an equal say regardless of how many shares they own. This prevents a single individual or group from securing control of the Co-op by buying lots of shares, and thus ensures dispersed community ownership for as long as the farm businesses continue to operate.
Finally, the Co-op is owned by its shareholders, who are all private individuals in the community. These individuals, known as “farm partners” are ultimately the only owners of the two farm businesses. You too can become a farm partner – please ask at either farm.
Community Supported Agriculture
Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch are part of a global Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement that seeks to reconnect farming with local communities. In our case we have an ‘ownership’ model where the farm business capital is owned by local people. In other cases, such as Fordhall Farm (http://www.fordhallfarm.com/) in Shropshire, the community owns the land and rents it to the farming family. In other cases, such as Stroud Community Agriculture (http://www.stroudcommunityagriculture.org/), there is a membership scheme in which the community members commit to paying a share of the annual running costs, often receiving a weekly veg box in return.
At the core of all CSAs – and there are thousands of them worldwide – is the close and mutual connection between farm, farmers and community. Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch are part of this; they are local community farms as well as global pioneers of a new way of farming and producing food. The Soil Association has more information about CSAs (http://www.soilassociation.org/communitysupportedagriculture). You can also read case studies of CSAs in other European countries at http://forum-synergies.eu/article15.html.
Click here for a very informative CSA (community supported agriculture) Case Study prepared by Professor Neil Ravenscroft & Rachel Hanney – both key members of the Tablehurst Farm team.