Hive mind – letters to the editor

Dec 21, 2023

We have been WWOOF hosts since 2012 and have hosted well over 200 volunteers from all over the​ world during that time. We have enjoyed this experience immensely and feedback has been very​ positive too.

In the early days a lot of the activities centred around developing a vegetable garden​ which fed us, and surplus was sold to the local community. In 2015 Casha (who is the 5th​generation​ and Adam returned to the farm and we rescued a young cow, April, who became the foundation of​ our cow with calf, pasture fed, micro dairy and beef herd. We also reared some orphan lambs and​ the female, Dora, was the start of our sheep flock. Now we have over 85 cattle and 100 sheep.
Animal welfare has always been a top priority for us. We sell our produce direct to customers​ through our on-site farm shop and delivery service.

There have been a lot of changes over these years and now we are embracing another enormous​ challenge – to raise £1.4 million by 18th January 2024 to keep Babbinswood Farm organic in​ perpetuity. This has come about due to the need to purchase half of the farm from my ex-husband​ during the process of our divorce, to keep the farm whole, thriving and producing nutritious​ affordable organic food whilst restoring and caring for our soil, our animals, our local and wider​ community and our planet.

Over the last few years, we have not managed to convince conventional banks that we can afford​ such borrowing. Our current business is young, so although projections on the performance of the​ last two years are good, it doesn’t have a robust track record that has satisfied affordability criteria.
Even banks that think more outside the box have not been able to help so far. There seems to me to​ be a total disconnect between people, banks and businesses that if we don’t care for our soils, very​ shortly, there will be nothing left in which to grow nutritious food. Organic farming, which we are​ passionate about, has the answers. 

As Hans Herren said when asked, can organic farming feed the world, he said “sure it can – but it doesn’t​ fill the pockets of a few business people”. We are absolutely determined that our precious land, organic​ for 21 years now, will not be sold off to the highest bidder and sprayed off with chemicals and ploughed up.

Inspired by the success of fellow WWOOF UK hosts, Fordhall Organic Farm, we are in the process of offering community shares​ by setting up a Community Benefit Society. We are very fortunate that Cooperatives UK are funding​ some help from Charlotte Hollins, of Fordhall Community Land Initiative, with her wealth of​ expertise that she has gathered since 2006. We have done surveys and held a first community​ meeting on December 3rd , which was well attended – around 30 people – despite snow the night​ before and wet and cold conditions on the day. This was to hear the voice of the community, to​ understand what they would like to see here and what involvement they want. The next stage is a​ community group meeting this evening so we can make some decisions and move things forward​ with the Community Benefit Society.

We realise this is unlikely to produce £1.4million by January 18th so we are looking at many avenues to give us some more breathing space. The original deadline was October 18th 2023 but we managed to get an extension to January, helped enormously by a JustGiving page set up by a friend and supporter. This has already raised nearly £19,000 so far from 192 supporters, including WWOOFers, recent and from a long time ago, which has helped towards the extra interest payments:

We have had very generous donations alongside the crowdfunder as well and long or short term personal loans and pledges which amount to over £53,000. It has been so heart warming and very moving as we realise the support we have and that there are people that understand the importance of organic farming. In the near future we will also look at mini bonds so that people can invest in other ways.

If anyone is interested in getting involved, has any ideas or comments, or funds they would like to​ invest in some way, even just to get us through the next 6 to 12 months, all will be gratefully​ received!

Barbara Jones
Babbinswood Farm
SY11 4PF

Do you have a question for the ‘hive mind’Can you help save Babbinswood? Do you have any top tips you could share here? A poem, ‘WWOOFy’ film or book you think the WWOOF UK community would be interested in? We’d love to hear about it!

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