Tender to buy land at Ryton Organic Gardens

Proposal for Five Acre Community Farm to Purchase Land at Ryton Organic Gardens.

Background

Five Acre Community Farm (trading name of South Warwickshire Local Food cic) is a successful community supported agriculture scheme that currently rents 6ac of land (the field), space in the barn and glasshouses, some polytunnel space and some machinery (including a tractor) from Garden Organic. It also owns equipment and a polytunnel in its own right. The farm has been trading for six full years and is a financially viable community supported agriculture business employing a grower and two part time staff who support a lively group of members and volunteers from the Coventry and Rugby areas. The farm produces a weekly share of vegetables for members, runs well supported work days, and hosts a number of educational and learning opportunities for the wider community.

Garden Organic is currently seeking ideas for its site which it manages but which currently detracts from its charitable mission.

Proposal

Our proposal is that Five Acre Community Farm form itself into a community benefit society (CBS) and launch a community share offer for the horticultural element of the current site comprising roughly 10-14 ac (to be agreed and measured) but to include the current veg production field, two glasshouses, various polytunnels and outbuildings including the barn, an orchard as well as other wooded or enclosed areas (see area within red line on map below). The tractor and machinery would also be included in the value. Right of access shown in yellow would also need to be included.

Red is outline of the land we want to buy. Yellow is rights access needed.

Actions required

Steps that would need to be taken by Five Acre and Garden Organic include:

1) agreeing what to include in the holding but to include the land which currently falls under agricultural use together with additional areas and buildings of potential agricultural use.

2) agree value with Garden Organic as well as any uplift or other conditions including rights of way. The Ecological Land Cooperative (http://ecologicalland.coop/) could potentially broker this. Agricultural land in Warwickshire is currently valued at around £10,000 per acre whilst the farm buildings and polytunnels would need to be separately valued as per their agricultural use value and condition. We have previously used land agents for similar work (Godfrey-Payton locally (http://www.godfrey-payton.co.uk/)).

3) consult with current farm members and business consultants to form business plan for CBS and community share offer (regulated by FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)). Coventry and Warwickshire Cooperative Development Agency (based in Coventry, http://www.cwcda.co.uk/) have expressed an interest in being a partner in this process. They also have access to Cooperative Development grant funding should it be needed.

We would also be willing to consult with Garden Organic as to how they would like to preserve the heritage and legacy aspects of the site and discuss how members could access this within the business plan. We could also seek to maintain some of the current ‘historical’ gardens (e.g. Geof Hamilton Garden, Muck and Magic Garden and Biodynamic Garden) with the help of current Garden Organic volunteers. Other potential partners include Warwickshire and Coventry Bee keepers, Coventry University (through the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR)), horticultural therapy charities, and forest school enterprises linked to local schools.

4) launch community share offer to raise capital (community campaign of 3 months).

5) buy site.

This process is likely to take of the order of 9 to 18 months depending on the time frame stipulated by Garden Organic but the Five Acre share issue would take 6 months to gain FCA and HMRC approval (for SITR (social investment tax relief status)) and 3 months to run a share issue campaign. We would model the process on Canalside Community Food (http://www.canalsidecommunityfood.org.uk/) which is currently undertaking a similar scheme in nearby Leamington and in which some of the members of Five Acre are also involved.

Benefits

For Garden Organic we see the advantages as

  • ensuring the continuation of the site for its original intended purpose; the promotion of sustainable organic horticulture and agriculture by an asset locked organisation (Five Acre) and a continuation of the work of Garden Organic in engaging the wider community in organic growing.

  • it would remove the burden of managing the half of the site that is currently managed by contractors and remove the barn and damaged glasshouses and polytunnels as liabilities.

  • it could also be available for Garden Organic as a demonstration and legacy site into the future if an agreement was drawn up between the two organisations including as a potential site to multiply and display Heritage Seed Varieties (subject to a management agreement between the two parties).

  • the continuation of organic management of the site should be attractive to current members and past members of Garden Organic and could potentially preserve the legacy and heritage of the site ensuring the ongoing good reputation of the charity.

The advantages of this proposal as we see it for Five Acre Community Farm:

  • a minimal interruption to our ongoing community vegetable production business

  • a guarantee of the sustainability of the farm as a community asset in the long term

  • addition of social programmes by adding a care farm or horticultural therapy element to the work benefiting the community in Coventry, Rugby and South Warwickshire in particular.

  • it would be a focus for community land based activities in Coventry, Rugby and south Warwickshire (e.g. bee keeping, woodcraft activities)

  • it would also have the security of tenure necessary of investment and the CBS structure in place to allow the raising of further capital should it be necessary to develop various land based enterprises sustainably.

Sale Price

Given the advantages to both parties we would expect to come to a mutual agreement as to a fair market price for a community buy out of the horticultural/agricultural element of the site. We would expect to pay the market rate for agricultural land and buildings as evaluated by an agreed independent assessor. Currently we are estimating that the land, machinery and agricultural buildings would be of the order of £300- 400,000 taking into account their state of repair.

Gareth Davies

Five Acre Community Farm

10 February 2018

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