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Farming for the future

The co-founders of the Kindling Trust meet Simon Birch at their newly-purchased farm that will become a showcase for sustainable farming.

In this article they share their vision for the land with organic growing and community engagement key priorities.

How would you like to be a co-owner of an organic farm, one that will demonstrate that it’s possible to grow food that benefits biodiversity? This is the offer from the Kindling Trust, a dynamic co-op that’s been helping to revolutionise food systems around Manchester since 2007.

Co-operative community investment in a sustainable organic farm

With its fingers seemingly in every organic veggie pie, Kindling Trust successfully runs a vast range of projects from organic veg box schemes to supporting local food growers.

In the latest step of its ambitious organic food journey, this spring Kindling bought a 31-hectare farm outside Liverpool for £1.7 million with the help of more than 600 community share investors.

Now it’s looking to raise an additional £400,000 of community investment to increase the number of co-owners and help reduce the size of their bank loan which will put them on an even stronger financial footing.

“The current food system is totally broken, and farming is responsible for 10% of our carbon emissions, as well contributing to the biodiversity crisis,” says Helen Woodcock, one of Kindling’s co-founders speaking to Ethical Consumer in the farm’s kitchen.

“Farming can be a solution and one of the easiest ways to reverse the biodiversity and climate crises is to buy organic and wildlife-friendly food,” adds Chris Walsh, the other Kindling co-founder.

Two people (Helen and Chris) standing in field
Helen and Chris from Kindling Trust

What’s the aim of buying a farm?

“Whilst we’ve been running successful sustainable food and farming initiatives for over a decade, we’ve always wanted to show it can and must be done on a larger scale,” says Helen.

“We also aim to demonstrate that we can do farming in a different way that involves our community and our members,” adds Chris.

“The goal is to inspire and support people and in ten years’ time we’d like to see a network of similar farms across the north of England.”

Stepping outside the Victorian farmhouse, Chris takes me for a tour around the farm and describes the vision for the farm which will be run on agroforestry principles.

“Increasingly being adopted across Europe, agroforestry simply means combining agriculture with trees, something which boosts farming productivity as well as biodiversity,” says Chris.

There are already a number of agroforestry farms in England including Wakelyns in Suffolk, but the Kindling Farm will be the biggest such farm in North West England.

“In 12 months’ time we’ll have planted over two thousand apple, pear and plum trees,” says Chris pointing at the current bare fields.

Share offer open

The Kindling Farm community share offer provides for a 3% return and the minimum investment is £200. Chris accepts that for cash-strapped people this is a large amount of money, though there are still ways to buy into the project:

“People can invest as a group, and they can also pay for their investment in instalments.”

With many small farms currently struggling, Chris is confident that their farm will buck the trend: “Whilst we’ll be growing fruit and veg, a chunk of our revenue will come from the farm buildings which will provide a range of income streams such as accommodation, office space, and even a micro-brewery.”

“We’re lucky because we’ve already built our markets across Greater Manchester,” adds Helen, “we’ll be growing these and we’ll be able to supply new markets across Merseyside.”

For both Chris and Helen one of the most exciting aspects of the project is the opportunity to encourage people to feel a sense of community ownership of the farm: “We want to create a more direct relationship between food growers and consumers and provide access to good sustainable food,” says Helen.

“The local community is already excited with our plans and are really supportive. There’s an almost overwhelming amount of work to do but it’s so much easier when people want you to do it.”

Visit the Ethex investment site for information on buying shares in the Kindling Farm.

The offer closes 1st July 2023.