The farming industry is being urged to give its backing to a community-led bid for the tenancy of Wye College Farm.
With agricultural teaching at Wye having come to an end, Imperial College London is offering a 10 year farm business tenancy on the 307 Ha (758 acre) farm.
In anticipation of this opportunity, a steering group comprising local residents and Wye alumni has been working for the last six months to put together a community bid for the tenancy.
The key initiatives on the Wye Community Farm will be:
– Direct sales of farm produce, both through in-house businesses (e.g. milk processing and bottling) and partnership arrangements with local farms.
– School visits, vocational training, and volunteering opportunities.
– Agri-environment schemes and public access programmes; the entire farm is in the North Downs AONB.
The Wye Community Farm will be registered as a co-operative for community benefit, with membership being held in the form of £50 shares.
The steering group is now ready to submit a bid, but will only do so if sufficient pledges to buy shares are received by 9 July.
Phil Ward, chairman of the steering group, says “Farmers are increasingly aware of the need for the industry to promote itself to the wider public, and explain the central role of agriculture in maintaining the countryside.
“There is also an urgent need to develop models for local distribution systems to reduce food miles. The Wye Community Farm would do all of this and more, but can only do so if the industry gives its backing now to the tenancy bid.”
Full details of the proposal and how to pledge support can be found on www.wyecommunitylandtrust.org.uk If the tender bid is successful, a prospectus will be sent out to all who have pledged to buy shares.
“For 100 years the Wye College Farm was at the forefront of developments in agriculture. With the support of the farming industry, the Farm can enter a new chapter to address the challenges of the 21st Century,” said Mr Ward.