A long term vision for Stockwood
Sebastian Parsons - 13 December 2013
Having helped co-found the Biodynamic Land Trust in 2011, I helped co-found Stockwood Community Benefit Society. Thanks to a mixture of loans and the sale of community shares, the trust is on target to purchase our family farm, Rush Farm, and its rural business park, and become its new owner and manager. As Stockwood Community Benefit Society establishes itself, and new shareholders join, we have a surplus of income from our business park rental. This has allowed us to go the next stage, and for a long-term vision to reveal itself.
Education is fundamental to positive change, and so it is built into the objects of Stockwood Community Benefit Society. However, what shape this would take remained a mystery, tucked away in the unconscious, an 'unthought known', as we went about the business of promoting our share offer.
We needed to connect with both consumers and farmers. Two different audiences yet needing to engage with the same farm resources. The nagging question was: how?
It was while in conversation with my mother, Anne Parsons, and the farm’s biodynamic and organic farmer, that we hit on the idea of two farms in one: an inner and an outer one. The former, a farm-within-a-farm, would be ten acres of farmland open to the general public. The latter, the rest of our 150-acre farm, would act as a living demonstration of biodynamic practice based on the practical realities of running a working farm.
We have mentally marked-out 10 acres of our working farm as a small-holding to grow some crops, and rear rare breeds of cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens or ducks. Engaging but somewhat impractical for a commercial farm, yet as a visitor learning experience - perfect.
An old-fashioned farm is a visitor attraction but it is not just about nostalgia. In an area small enough to stroll around, visitors can experience, with their own senses, the natural cycles of life and its relationship to soil, plants and animals.
Once we hit on the idea of an inner-farm, we realised we could create an amazing visitor experience and be relieved of the burden of having to show economic efficiency - which would be done by the outer-farm.
Our aim is to show how farming 150 acres can provide a living - and feed the farmer’s own family. We want Rush Farm to model how biodynamic and organic methods can produce healthy organisms, crops and animals, which cuts down cost and boosts productivity.
Using web-based communications and farm visits, our own journey to economic and environmental sustainability can act as a real-life model for farmers and growers, and act as a free communal resource.
Help us to bring this educational vision into reality - invest and spread the word!
Phone 01386 791012 or go to stockwoodcbs.org.
Sebastian co-owns Rush Farm, a mixed Demeter and Soil Association-certified 200-acre farm in Worcestershire with 200 Lleyn sheep and 30 native Hereford cattle. Stockwood Community Benefit Society is turning the farm and its business park into a community-owned enterprise. The public can buy shares (and gain 5% interest) to secure the farm’s sustainable future. Sebastian Parsons is CEO of Elysia, which includes Dr.Hauschka organic skin care range, and chief executive of the Biodynamic Association.