History of the Land Trust
The Land Trust was founded in 2007 by the coming together of three parties: Land Heritage, the Paget Estate and the Soil Association.
Land Heritage was founded just after the Second World War by a Somerset farmer called Hugh Flatt who had become increasingly struck by how disconnected people had become from the land and from food production. Land Heritage began life as an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), the first to be set up to own farmland for organic farming. In 1950, the Society purchased its first farm, Chitcombe, with help from funds it had raised from its members, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) style. In 1956, the land was split forming the Society’s second farm, Easterdown.
As a working demonstration farm, Chitcombe hosted many visitors, including Lady Eve, one of the Soil Association founders. Visitors came from all walks of life and from many parts of the world, to be more connected to the land and to learn more about farming.
Over the years, two more farms were donated to the Society which became a charitable trust, Land Heritage, in 1984.
During 2005-6, the Trustees of Land Heritage had been seriously considering the long term future of the Trust and desired to have more of an impact on the wider public. After discussion with the Soil Association, who were at the same time discussing setting up a land trust, it was decided to join forces.
Before his death in 2008, Hugh was able to give his approval to the passing of Land Heritage to the Soil Association Land Trust and to see his life’s work continue.
The Paget Estate
In 1985, Joanna Herbert-Stepney was unexpectedly left her cousin’s estate, 3,000 acres of farmland in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
A strong advocate for organic farming and a long standing supporter of the Soil Association, Joanna’s main concern is very simply ‘who will look after all of this when I’m dead?’
‘I want to know that my farms and farmers will be safe and well looked after long into the future when I’m gone. I want somewhere people can come and enjoy the beauty and peace of the countryside.’
Through talks with the then Director of the Soil Association, Patrick Holden, Joanna decided that a Soil Association Land Trust would be the perfect vehicle to take care of her farms.
The Soil Association
The early days of the Soil Association had started out on a farm based in Suffolk which was primarily involved in research to try and understand more about how the best of the old and new traditions in land husbandry could be combined. Out of this came the first organic standards in the UK.
In 2006 the Soil Association started thinking more seriously about the idea of establishing a land trust for those who might wish to leave their land in trust for organic and sustainable farming.
Entering into discussions with Joanna Herbert Stepney and Land Heritage, the thinking of all three parties came together into a decision to form the Soil Association Land Trust.
Read more about the history of the Soil Association