Reproduced from Tillington Farm Crowdfunder
Due to some mismanagement of their banking arm, the Co-op are selling Tillington farm to cover debt. To ensure it remains part of a co-operative we are putting together a bid proposal to purchase the farm. First we have to show we are a serious buyer for Tillington as a co-operative, and so we need to create a trust and bring in the expertise of property valuators and business planning writers. We need your help to do this. If you know enough about our efforts to purchase Tillington please pledge your support now, if not we invite you to read further about the current situation and our solution to the Co-op’s problem.
The proposal to buy the Co-op Farm at Tillington by a National Co-op Farm Trust and form a Coop Farm Business aims to save the farm land into trust – respecting the saved reinvestment of profits by members, staff and managers over a hundred years and also to enable the continuation of the successful Co-op Farm business at Tillington.
The urgency to organise a bid to buy Tillington Farm arises from the need for the Co-op Group to pay of the massive debts they have accumulated through the miss-management of the Co-op bank and other costly errors by the Group. Selling Co-op Farms to the highest bidder is seen as part of the solution. It’s up to us to ensure that at least one farm remains in co-operative ownership and does not pass into the hands of companies more interested in asset stripping and little regard for the long term health of the soil.
One benefit of this Co-op community farm buy will be to reinvent and renew the values of the co-operative movement which have been so damaged by the recent problems of the Co-op Group and Bank.
If we are successful, the land at Tillington will be under community control with land value captured for community benefit and will prevent this significant national asset being stripped by private or overseas buyers.
In the longer term, the farm could move to a more agroecological approach for its management including greater use of biological pest controls, more diversity of cropping and soil enhancement. It could also build on the work already started to educate and inform people about farming and inspire them to get more involved in where and how their food is produced.
About Tillington Farm
• 5miles NW of Hereford ( HR4 8LQ)
• 512 acres
• Apples, cider apples, cherries
• National Collection of 1000 apple varieties
• Co-op ownership since 1909
• Part of the Farm to Fork education project
The farm is currently run commercially as part of Co-op Farmcare which also operates at 14 other sites across the UK.
The sale of Farmcare has come about because the Co-op Group urgently need to raise money to pay down the debt of the Group including the Bank. Our aim is to form a Community Land Trust as a community benefit society to own the land and buildings to lease to farm business co-operatives to continue to manage the farm.
This is an exciting opportunity to ensure that the farm remains under co-operative management and over time become of shining example of sustainable land use where people can come, learn and then copy . The purchase will also mean that the existing jobs on the farm are protected.
How will it work?
If we can put together a bid to buy the farm before 15th June (the Co-op Group‘s deadline) we would invite people to pledge investment to funds the buy-out by the Trust. The Co-op have placed a value of £8-10 million for the land and buildings at Tillington which stretches over two sites. Our advisors suggest that such a share offer in a Community Land Trust is likely to be successful.
However before that state we need to get through the first round.
This means preparing a bid that meets the requirements of the Co-op Group.
To do this successfully we will have to bring in a range of experts on the financial, co-operatives, fund raising, promotion and farming aspects of the bid. This will cost money and therefore we have launched a Fighting Fund To Keep Tillington as a Co-operative Farm and safeguard the 1000 heritage apple tree collection.
Hundreds of members of the Co-op Movement have already pledged their support to buy Tillington but we need to broaden this appeal out to the wider community. If we are to be successful in reaching the target of £10m. Therefore developing a very effective promotion of the share offer for Tillington will be part of the preparing the first round bid.
To achieve this we need raise £7500 in the next few weeks to produce a very convincing bid which will see us into the next round of bidding.
Please support us make sure that the idea grows and becomes reality by supporting our Fighting Fund
Aside from developing a solid bid to enable to move to the next stage of the bidding process we are also intending to organise a public meeting in Hereford to raise awareness of this project , build local support and sign up potential investors.
What do we need to do the Raise £10m?
Although £10 million is a huge some to raise, it is less so once it is broken down into manageable chunks.
£10 m only requires 10,000 people to contribute an average of £1000 per donation or community share investment. Or 20,000 investing £500 each
Joining together to invest in a Co-op Farm Trust bid for securing Tillington Orchard could secure jobs, biodiversity, community connected farming, farm to fork education, and our apple heritage – as well as build our co-operative common wealth.