A new funding scheme has been launched for ecological agriculture, with The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) being in the first batch of recipients.
The Just Growth Fund is awarded to ecological and social projects, from community based food projects to farming projects.
From over 40 projects that applied for the scheme, ELC joined the Veg Box People, Food Up Front - Elderfield project, Hempen Organics, Plotgate CSA, Sacred Earth, and Scotland the Bread on the recipient list.
For the ELC, the funding will support their second cluster of affordable and ecological residential smallholdings for new entrants to horticulture and mixed farming.
The new scheme, run by the Fund for Enlightened Agriculture (FEA), will support social enterprises across the UK. Alongside the funding, FEA have convened two working groups to look at how to improve land access and funding for agro-ecological enterprises.
The Just Growth Funding package is made up of one third loan financing from CCF and one third grant funding from Esmee Fairbairn. The remaining third of the funding has to be raised by the project itself from its local community through vehicles such as crowdfunding or community shares. The release of the loan and the grant is contingent on the projects raising the necessary community finance.
In addition to the funding package, successful projects receive up to three days of specialist advice to support their work.
The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) was set up to address the lack of affordable sites for ecological land based livelihoods in England. The ELC are the only organisation in England to offer affordable residential smallholdings for ecological land users.
Cate Chapman, Managing Director of Ecological Land Co-operative, commenting on being a part of the Just Growth scheme, said:
"Thanks to the Just Growth funding we are able to reduce the price of smallholdings in our next development. This is a huge help in achieving our goals: creating opportunities for new entrants to farming access land for sustainable uses."
Planning is a major systemic problem in the UK for trying to create a truly sustainable agriculture. Ecological producers often struggle to secure planning permission for residential smallholdings in the open countryside and opportunities to take on existing smallholdings are both costly and rare. The ELC’s model helps to keep costs low, holding the skills and knowledge needed to efficiently draft planning applications for low impact developments, and by creating clusters of smallholdings that benefit from shared infrastructure and opportunities for mutual support. Their work also demonstrates a model of collective ownership that can protect and enhance the land, based not only on ideas of conservation, but on producing a living and working countryside.
Clare Horrell, Programme Manager of Just Growth, said:
"We are delighted that the Ecological Land Co-operative has become one of the first organisations to receive funding through the Just Growth programme. The mix of grant, loan and community finance is a novel approach to funding community-based food and farming projects. Whilst the model does require a lot of work from the projects we hope that the rigours of this process means that those organisations that are successful will also be resilient and sustainable in the longer term."
For more information on the Just Growth Fund scheme visit www.feanetwork.org/our-projects/just-growth
For more information on the Ecological Land Co-operative visit http://ecologicalland.coop/