Interview with the founder
Elizabeth Winkler interviews Sebastian Parsons about how the Stockwood Community Benefit Society came about.
Family farming with an unusual twist
Faye Holst from Greenhouse PR wrote an article to explain the story behind the Stockwood Community Benefit Society.
Rush Farm, Stockwood, is a family run farm but not in the traditional way where the parents passed down the farm to their children. The story of the Parsons family adds an unusual twist to family farming.
The story of Rush Farm begins on another farm, also in Worcester, called Broome Farm, bought in 1933 by Sebastian’s grandfather, David Clement, a pioneer of Britain’s organic movement. Broome Farm was the Biodynamic Agricultural Association’s headquarters for over half a century, as well as the family farm. Sold in the 1980s, Broome Farm vanished from organic and biodynamic management. It is this loss which has driven the Parsons’ family to secure Rush Farm’s sustainable future.
Sebastian Parsons says: “After Broome Farm was sold, my sisters and I resolved to one day buy it back. Of course we never did buy Broome Farm back. But when we purchased Rush Farm, we realised we had actually achieved our aim – we had fulfilled our commitment to the land.”
Sebastian Parsons and his two sisters, Tabitha and Sophie bought Rush Farm and took over Stockwood Business Park in 2005. By buying Rush Farm it was the grandchildren who followed through Parsons family farming legacy. And rather than the parents asking their next of kin to follow in their footsteps it was the children who asked their parents if they wanted to manage Rush Farm. After a long holiday and some good thought, they decided that this was the best thing their children could have asked them. They now run the Demeter-certified biodynamic and Soil Association-certified organic farm.
Father Adrian comments: “As a member of the young farmers’ club at 16 I loved the land and the animals but my dad made it very clear that there I should look for a life other than farming, I suppose he wanted me to experience a freedom I would otherwise not have had. Farming is ruthless in the sense that there’s no time for dreaming, there is no let up. But I love the farming life and it’s one of the most all-encompassing and fulfilling things I’ve ever experienced, other than my children of course.”
When mother Anne’s parents were about to retire from Broome Farm his children could not decide on what was to happen to the farm. Eventually they sold the land and his life’s work of managing the land in an organic way was undone in a few months’ time.
Sebastian comments: “Many farming families are split by succession questions – land is so valuable and it is rare that all off-spring share a common vision with their parents.”
The 190-acre farm, in Stock Wood, near Redditch in Worcestershire, includes 190 acres of land. The farm has a breeding flock of 200 Lleyn sheep, and a herd of 30 pure-bred traditional Hereford cattle. The animals are kept to the highest animal welfare standards and treated with homeopathy as a preventative measure. The farm also produces 30 acres of cereals.
To secure this exceptional land free from pesticides and artificial fertilizers for future generations, the Parsons family came up with a unique solution. They have transformed the farm ownership from privately owned into the hands of the community and anybody that likes can now co-own a piece of a beautiful piece of farmland in Worcestershire.
Sebastian: “We own the land in trust for future generations and what better way than to give the community the chance to own the farm. That was what the whole family wanted having had the experience in the 1980s of the much loved family farm being sold because the family could not agree on its future.”
Sebastian again: “People in the Midlands visit us for our public events and invest in the farm, enjoying the feeling of connection to the land, to the farming community, to the production of their food and knowing that they are making a huge positive difference through how they choose to invest their savings. We are a beacon farming project pioneering a new model that is sustainable, practical and will transform land ownership and family life in the rural community for many years to come!”