Our family is often asked how we feel about the farm and business park passing into community ownership. There are a several layers to the answer for this question. The first is to do with the value the farmland holds for us, the second is the family’s experience of losing a farm in the past, and the third is to do with plans for the future and our children’s futures.
As a family we have a great deal of sympathy for the Native American idea that land is not something that is owned, but is carefully looked after by each generation, to be handed on to the next. Perhaps the value of the land could be seen as a line on a balance sheet, but instead we see a different picture: the ecological system, its myriad life forms, and the interplay of soil, plants, animals, weather and human beings.
We feel our farm’s biodynamic life-system supportive practices help the Earth breathe easier through our little patch of Worcestershire. We value the land highly for the environment it provides, the food it produces, and its quality. We love our farm. We care about it.
Stockwood Community Benefit Society is imbued with these values, and will ensure this piece of Worcestershire will be managed for the benefit of all – those around now, in the future, indeed, for ever. We like that idea.David Clement, father of Anne Parsons, was a farmer in Worcestershire, farming 200 acres in Broome near Hagley, and a pioneer of the organic movement. When we were teenagers, his farm (“our farm”) was put up for sale and the Biodynamic Agricultural Association ran a fundraising campaign to try to save it. It raised a lot of money but in the end the farm was sold to a local oil-tycoon and lost to organic and biodynamic cultivation. The movement was sad, we were sad, and, as a group of three grandchildren, my sisters and I resolved to one day buy it back. When we purchased Rush Farm in 2005 we realised we had achieved our aim, and that whilst it wasn’t Broome Farm we had fulfilled our commitment. Stockwood Community Benefit Society will ensure that history does not repeat itself.
Sometimes people ask why we don’t want our children to inherit and run the farm when they grow up. There are so many questions involved in this… questions about when we would want to hand it on, and how to get at least six people to agree on that! Then there would be the question about which child, if more than one showed an interest, and what if the children had different ideas about farming methods? We know from our experience how difficult this is.
If one of our children wanted to be a farmer in the future, could show they had the skills and wanted to follow the methods and values embedded in the Society, it would be possible for them to take on the lease from Stockwood Community Benefit Society.
Conversely, if nobody wants to carry on farming then the Society, with the help of the Biodynamic Land Trust, will find a new tenant for the farm who will work it biodynamically, according to the values and objects of the Society. The key thing is the Parsons family now, and the Parsons family in the future will not have to decide what to do with the capital value of the land ever again.
And it so happens we are interested in alternative forms of ownership and capital management. Stockwood Community Benefit Society sets up a foundation for the further development of the farm and the businesses that are based on the site, in a way that engages the community and furthers our personal objectives.
I hope that explains why the family is happy for the farm and business park to pass into community ownership.