With the climate and ecological crisis and an evolving school of thought that small farms may be the future, there seems to be a growing interest among young and new entrant farmers in our area.
It is clear that increasing local production, especially of vegetables and fruit, is a key step in raising local food security. Consultations in 2020 led by Seeding Our Future (SoF) showed that existing professional growers in our area support the need for new entrants.
To enable more people to get in to production on a market garden or small mixed farming scale requires a number of things, including:
Access to land – for purchase or long-term leases
Seeding our Future has been in discussion with a number of farmers who may be interested in leasing sections of land (2-20 acres) and is seeking contact with owners who may be willing to sell land in this acreage range. We are also exploring potential funders for land purchase, including local individuals and national organisations. If you know anyone who can help with any of this, please contact us via the email address below.
Generally speaking, the farms in West Dorset are sizeable and there are very few opportunities for would-be ‘small producers’ to access land. County Farms are under threat of being sold off, or they have existing long-term tenants.
Agroecological producers need some security of tenure in order to invest in the land and production process, so short-term leases are not desirable.
Growers with experience to make good use of the land
If land can be found, there are a number of growers locally and nationally who are looking for such an opportunity. If you are a grower, please contact us. Seeding our Future is happy to make introductions and support discussions between growers and landowners.
There are several farmers and market gardeners who practice agroecological methods in the Bridport area, including Tamarisk Farm, Springtail Market Garden, Fivepenny Farm, Washingpool, Bothen Hill, Modbury Farm, and Trill Farm. So there is a lot of experience in this area. Farm Hacks could be encouraged to share experience between farms.
Producers embarking on a climate-adaptive approach to growing will need to invest in some of the climate adaptive growing methods – including polytunnels, and storage facilities. Some funds will also be needed to cover initial operating costs.
So, some start-up capital is required. It could be possible to pool some of the capital resources.
Seeding our Future is happy to assist with raising start-up funds, from the local community and/or a crowdfunding campaign.
Clearly it would be important also to increase demand for the produce. One way of doing this would be to help set up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme, whereby consumers would commit to weekly payments in return for a share of the produce, thus reducing producer risk, and it might also provide some volunteer labour. SoF can also promote new producers via the Bridport Food Matters website, newsletters, events, and their wide network of local contacts.
To help overcome some of the obstacles facing new entrants to farming, the Landworkers’ Alliance is working with member organisations running ‘farm-start’ and ‘farm-incubation’ projects around the UK to develop a network of best practice and encourage the development of new opportunities. There is not currently a Farmstart programme in the Bridport area, but see a case study from Tamar Grow Local: https://landworkersalliance.org.uk/farm-start-network/. Nationally, LWA is supporting a government scheme to help unemployed people gain experience on farms.