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Organic land for the people - now and forever

Sebastian Parsons - 07 October 2013

Rush FarmMy two sisters and I have owned Rush Farm since 2005, and our parents run it as a biodynamic and organic farm. Thanks to these wise farming practices, the soil is revitalised and carbon-rich, wildlife has returned, and our farm animals manifest positive health. Rush Farm brings life back to the countryside people-wise too: our on-farm eco-business park is home to 19 businesses employing over 100 local people.

The story of how we got into farming begins with my grandfather, David Clement, a leading pioneer of the organic movement. He bought Broome Farm, also in Worcestershire, in 1933, and, for over 50 years, it was the headquarters of the Biodynamic Association.

After it was sold in the 1980s, my sisters and I resolved one day to buy it back. We never did get Broome Farm back. But when we bought Rush Farm, we realised we had achieved our aim - we had fulfilled our commitment to the land.

So why on earth do we now want to give up Rush Farm, our hard-won family inheritance? Why do we want the farm and its rural hub to belong to the community - not us?

The loss of our first family farm taught us that inheritance does not guarantee a farm's future. We sympathise with the Native American idea that land is not owned, but looked after by each generation to be handed on to the next. A traditional farm is not a line on a balance sheet. It is a living ecological system, an organism in its own right, comprised of the complex interplay of soil, plants, animals and human beings.

Stockwood Community Benefit Society has enshrined these values in legal form, a trust that will own and manage the farm and its business park as a sustainable enterprise in perpetuity.

Rush Farm was the original model in the 1950s for The Archers, BBC Radio 4’s long-running drama series about farming life. Now Rush Farm is set to put farming under the limelight again with its community share offer. Organic land for the people - now and forever.

The share offer ends on 31 October 2013. Find out more at stockwoodcbs.org.

Sebastian co-owns Rush Farm, a mixed Demeter and Soil Association-certified 200-acre farm in Worcestershire with 200 Lleyn sheep and 30 native Hereford cattle. Stockwood Community Benefit Society is turning the farm and its business park into a community-owned enterprise. The public can buy shares (and gain 5% interest) to secure the farm’s sustainable future. Sebastian Parsons is CEO of Elysia, which includes Dr.Hauschka organic skin care range, and chief executive of the Biodynamic Association.

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Comments



Sean
08 October 2013 08:55

I love everything that the passing on to community ownership stands for: to ensure that the original purpose of the farm is not lost, which happens so much after the first purposeful people move on. In terms of economic models, this is a fledgling but really exciting one for the future of capitalism. I know that Sebastian's Elysia is working hard on a larger model for all of this, which is very exciting too!

Elisabeth Winkler
07 October 2013 16:05

Community-owned farms has to be the future of sustainable farming. Well done, Sebastian and family, for thinking of the land on behalf of future generations.

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