One of the highlights of my first week was attending the AGM of the Fordhall Farm Community Initiative. Fordhall Farm is a rare example of combining three aspects of rural social enterprise in one place.
The first aspect is HOW the farm was saved. The story of how the farm, on which Arthur Hollins helped pioneer the modern organic movement, was saved by his son and daughter through enlisting the support of thousands of people to create the Fordhall Farm Community Initiative has been well documented. The story is best read in Ben and Charlotte Hollins book, The Fight for Fordhall Farm.
Inspiring as this is, what is now becoming clearer is the second aspect, namely WHAT it is that they were fighting to save. Fordhall was always about more than saving one farm. I thought that this best shown in the recent BBC documentary on The Farm of the Future. In that, Charlotte waxed lyrical not on the structure of the Farm’s ownership, but how its pasture had been developed to support a very different way of farming. Their plan for the future is focused on making the vision visible to a wide range of people.
Then there is the third aspect, which few have achieved and which Fordhall is becoming a master of. That is using the HOW to achieve the WHAT. Put simply, it is using its ownership structure to generate a level of engagement that others can only dream of. How many other farms can boast of volunteer days sold out months in advance, demand outstripping supply for its products, open days heavily supported and a dedicated band of people helping with administration for the love of the farm?
I think that all rural social enterprises could do with spending some time thinking how they could develop those three aspects for their enterprise as powerfully as Fordhall has done.