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Looking for land for small-scale regenerative horticulture?


PRESS RELEASE, 18 May 2022

A new community benefit society in South Wales is looking to match growers with landowners as part of an ambitious project that aims to create a network of 1200 acres of modern regenerative horticulture across Monmouthshire and the Brecon Beacons.

Our Food 1200 launched on 30 March this year with a call to farmers and landowners across the region to consider leasing small parcels of land for regeneratively grown fruit and vegetables. The group received an astonishing 20 land offers in the first week, and since then directors have been busy setting up site visits to assess their potential.

Now, with the first few land profiles complete, joint project manager Duncan Fisher says the group is looking to match them with experienced regenerative growers. “Summaries of the first three profiles are now available, and there are more in the pipeline, with opportunities ranging from growing mushrooms to soft fruit, a chance to restore a vineyard, and two acres on the Herefordshire-Monmouthshire border, to be run on a rotation system similar to the highly productive Hotchpotch Organics market garden in Worcestershire.”

But while anyone can view the summaries, more in-depth information will only be available to land seekers who register with the group. The process is free and straightforward, says Duncan: “Land seekers simply need to contact us. But if they want to know more about a particular land offer, we’ll need them to provide some additional information, including their skills and experience, which we can share with the landowners.

“That way we can provide a buffer for the landowners, and ensure that they’re dealing only with serious applicants,” explains Duncan. “But registering is good for land seekers, too, as it means they’ll be the first to hear about new opportunities as they become available.”

Matching growers with land opportunities is just part of the project. “We understand that land is not the only thing growers need,” says Duncan, “so as well as helping with lease contracts and access to business finance, we’re establishing a local “growers’ alliance”, to encourage cooperation and support. This puts new entrants in touch with existing growers in our network, giving them access to all kinds of hands-on help and advice. And behind the scenes we’re working hard to build local supply chains, expand local markets and, crucially, address the pressing need for affordable on-site housing.

“We know that most land seekers dream of owning their own land,” says Duncan. “But with land prices through the roof right now, it’s an increasingly distant prospect. Leasing offers a far more affordable way for small-scale growers to get on to the land and start their own business. The group sees their role as matchmakers at this stage of the project, with lease arrangements being agreed individually between landowners and growers. But there is a wider vision, with Our Food 1200 aiming to put horticulture at the heart of a new local food economy, based on short, resilient supply chains that keep profits with the growers and ensure a fair deal for everyone.

“Over the next 10 years we aim to find a total of 1200 acres for small-scale horticulture,” says Duncan. “That’s how much land we’d need to produce enough seasonal fruit and veg for every household in the region. With horticulture on that scale, we could begin serving nearby towns and cities, too, and offer a real alternative for local procurement – not just for restaurants and cafés, but for local hospitals and schools, too: that’s when things get really exciting.

“But to achieve that goal we need serious regenerative growers. This kind of farming is labour intensive and needs around one person per acre, so that’s 1200 people. We know there are plenty of would-be growers out there looking for land: hopefully we can help them find their dream opportunity.”

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