Case Study: Stroud Community Agriculture

Stroud Community Agriculture

Who are the landowners? There are two land owners, each providing 25a. One is a Steiner School the other is an adult education college. Both landlords are educational charities. In broader terms, CSAs are established on land belonging to a variety of landowners including the public sector, National Trust, private landowners, trusts, colleges and schools.

Describe the site: Stroud Community Agriculture (SCA) was established in 2001. It set up its own farming enterprise in 2002 and rented a one-acre walled garden from a farm. A year later, as the group grew, a larger site of 23 acres of local farmland was found. Now SCA rents around 50 acres of land.

What changes have been made?  The sites used by SCA are existing farmland, what has changed is the way the sites are managed and run. The Stroud project is an example of community supported agriculture - a producer-consumer partnership. The farm business is owned by a co-operative of 200 consumer members. The co-op rents the land and employs farmers for an hourly wage. Members cover the cost of running the farm, which is not for profit. There is a strong social purpose and involvement with the land. The land is cultivated using methods of organic and biodynamic agriculture. There are high environmental standards.

What activities take place?  Various forms of food production with community involvement. This includes pig production at the Hog Hands Project, running a herd of cattle and a vegetable box scheme. These activities provide food to around 200 households. In addition there are regular farm days organised, along with children's activities and special events such as the annual Harvest Celebration.

What is the land transaction status? Land is leased directly from local landlords on an ongoing basis with a 10 year Farm Business Tenancy. Jade Bashford of the Soil Association said this set up was just one of a number of arrangements for Community Supported Agriculture schemes. Some have standards FBTs (farm business tenancies), while others pay peppercorn rents to sympathetic landlords. A handful have bought land and put it in trust. Many are farmer led, where the farmer is already a landowner or established tenant. Some are schemes initiated by landowners who rent land to new community groups (eg the new National Trust CSAs).

Any land issues? In Stroud there are no apparent issues at this time. However, it is a fact that most CSAs would like longer and more secure leases. This would enable financial investment and a sense of belonging. Some food production is limited by short leases, most obviously planting orchards.

According to Jade Bashford, some CSAs have inadequate contracts, or no contract at all and lurch from season to season. Others have had long winded and attempts to get a clear agreement with landlords. The failure of at least two of the most promising new CSAs was due in part to the landlord's unwillingness to make a clear contract. Some pay a land agent to draw up a tenancy agreement. The Soil Association are not always able to give legal advice on farm tenancies. Instead the Soil Association pays for CSAs who need this advice to join the Tenant Farmers Association.

Most CSAs need investment in polytunnels, fencing, irrigation, barns and sheds. Insecure or inappropriate leases prevents this investment. Some grant funders, notably the Local Food Fund, will not pay for capital investments on farmland without a long lease. Most CSAs don't know how to find out about land that is available.


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