Posted 30 May 2006
SKILLED students at Harper Adams University College have found ways to save a pioneering farming scheme as part of their final year project.
The Fordhall Community Land Initiative, which is jointly run by Harper Adams’ student Ben Hollins, was set up to buy the freehold of the farm their family has tenanted for many years. More than £800,000 is needed by July to secure the future of Market Drayton’s Fordhall Farm – run by Ben and his older sister Charlotte.
And fourth-year Rural Enterprise and Land Management (REALM) students have been working on ways to save the farm from being sold off as their final project.
The work concluded on Wednesday morning (17) with presentations to Ben, Charlotte and REALM lecturers.
Charles Cowap, Lifelong Learning and Curriculum Manager and Principal Lecturer in Land Management, said: “In view of the local interest and topicality of the case we thought it would be a fantastic project for students.
“They faced a daunting challenge, and they have risen to it with their characteristic ‘can-do’ attitude.
“The students have had some great ideas, but professionalism has also permeated their approach – a vital combination when dealing with a unique project like Fordhall”
Twenty-three-year-old Charlotte Hollins, commented on the project: “"Our involvement with students at Harper Adams has been fantastic.
“The students have come up with some fascinating ideas for the future of Fordhall and have clearly put in a lot of effort and thought.
“They seem to have got out of it just as much as we have; we hope that this is the beginning of a long term partnership with students from Harper Adams University College."
The Fordhall Initiative is being driven forward with the help of volunteers; all with the aim of saving Fordhall Farm from being broken up and sold off.
It aims to secure and hold the land assets of Fordhall Farm for community benefit and to ensure permanently affordable access to farmland for farmers.
It also hopes to ensure appropriate access to the farm for the community and that the farm is managed sustainability using organic farming methods, with appropriate management for wildlife, biodiversity, heritage, access and to provide an educational and social resource.
Charlotte added: “By securing Fordhall Farm, the initiative is committing to building a sustainable future whilst guaranteeing that farming will be an affordable way of life for generations to come.
“This unique piece of Shropshire’s heritage is the setting for a community driven venture which is helping to reconnect people with the land, whilst at the same time promoting the full 'pasture to plate' cycle.”
“In an ever demanding consumer economy, traditional farming is struggling to be a profitable profession. It is challenging for small farmers to compete with large scale producers and cut-back prices.”
“Fordhall Farm is one of the longest running natural farms in England and this heritage needs to be protected and preserved. It is this combination of history, environmental qualities and undeterred motivation which has made Fordhall Farm a treasure to visit.”
Once the future of Fordhall Farm is secured, organisers plan to open an organic cafe and construct an education resource centre and bunkhouse – for use by education groups, care groups and activity weekends.