We have released our first two loans via Just Growth, the funding programme for community food and farming projects launched in July 2015. The recipients are the Ecological Land Co-operative and Veg Box People. Just Growth is a Real Farming Trust project. Eligible ventures that raise finance from community investment or crowd funding can have it matched with a grant (funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation) and a loan from Co‑operative & Community Finance.
Ecological Land Co‑operative (ELC)
ELC was set up in 2009 to help people become smallholders. It aims to buy land, obtain planning permission, and install the infrastructure to create clusters of three or more affordable residential smallholdings. The smallholders build their own sustainable homes.
This campaigning and pioneering co-operative has a complex structure that includes 122 investor members, who have invested a total of £384,000, seven worker members (both employees and volunteers) and 19 steward members, some of whom are smallholders.
The first project, on a 22 acre greenfield site in mid-Devon, was granted planning permission in 2013. It is now home to three smallholdings that operate as independent businesses but work co-operatively to manage the whole site. ELC provided a timber barn, a solar electrical system, a rainwater harvesting and treatment system, road access and a package of practical support.
ELC’s next project is the development of a 19-acre site in East Sussex. Executive Chair Zoe Wangler said: “The funding package has enabled us to reduce the price at which we will be able to offer smallholdings in our next development. This will help make the land even more accessible to new entrants to ecological horticulture and mixed farming.”
Veg Box People
Veg Box People is part of a growing network of organisations in Greater Manchester that are passionate about creating a fair and sustainable local food system. It was set up in 2015 by the Kindling Trust in partnership with Manchester Veg People and the University of Manchester.
The Kindling Trust, established in 2009, is working to create a just and sustainable society. It supports progressive practical projects based around food – production, consumption and activism.
Manchester Veg People is a co-operative of local organic growers, commercial buyers and workers. It is a wholesaling operation that brings together producers and buyers to build a fair supply chain that makes small scale organic production viable. Eight growers and over 40 buyers are currently involved.
Veg Box People is a worker co-operative, currently with three members. It buys local organic vegetables, packs them into boxes and delivers them to customer collection points. They have used the loan to increase their packing area and to buy a delivery van.
Melvyn Newton of Manchester Veg People said: “We are expecting the number of customers and collection points to increase a lot over the next year.”
The scheme aims to improve links between growers and consumers and Veg Box People customers are invited to visit the growing sites.