Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

February 13, 2013

Organically owned

Last month, Local People Leading reported on the UK’s first community owned farm – Fordhall Farm in Shropshire.  Last night, plans to float Scotland’s first such venture were laid out at a public meeting in West Linton.   Renowned for championing all things organic, the owners of Whitmuir Farm have big plans to develop the farm as a kind of edible Eden Project of the north and the idea of community ownership fits their vision perfectly.


Pete Richie who runs Whitmuir Farm with his wife Heather, explains their rationale behind this decision to become community owned. 

First, to safeguard it as an organic farm and community resource into the future – we’re not getting any younger and our boys wouldn’t want to farm.  The farm will continue to be an open farm and to sell food to the farm shop.

Second, to raise capital to invest in developing the farm further, and reduce the amount that’s going to the bank.

Third, and most interestingly to develop an educational centre for sustainable food and farming, a sort of Edible Eden Project (though for 50,000 visitors rather than 1m a year).

The centre will  engage the public in the big questions about sustainable food in Scotland – Eg can we feed the 9 billion and do we all need to go vegetarian? Do we need GM? Can farming and wildlife go together? What do we grow locally and what’s in season?  Is it better for us?  Should we grow more of our own food? What does organic mean?

Currently the plan is to create 5 ‘trails’ – a nature trail with a ‘worm hole’ for meeting some of the creatures who make the soil work; a history trail telling the story of food and farming locally and posing questions about the future; a zero carbon, zero waste trail showing renewable energy generation, reusing food waste, how trees and grass lock up carbon etc; a grow your own trail taking people through the different community growing projects; and the centrepiece, a ‘one world greenhouse’.  This will include a growing space of half an acre (the amount of arable land on the planet divided by the number of people) and will get people thinking about what they would grow and eat if this was their own small planet.

We hope to develop and run the new centre in partnership with NGOs and academic institutions involved in sustainable food and farming, creating somewhere which offers something to the family out on a day trip, a secondary school from Edinburgh, the local primary school and the Masters in Food Security student.

How – we’ve set up a Community Benefit Society which is planning to launch a community share issue next month to raise up to £600,000. Anyone aged 5 or over can buy a share, and people can invest anything from £50 to £20,000 – but every shareholder gets one vote.  We’re aiming for 5,000 shareholders. We can’t promise a dividend, but people will be able to withdraw their money once a reserve has built up. 

To learn more about Whitmuir – The Organic Place click here.