News >> Proposal to develop a consortium to bid for Parsonage Farm, Dartington

Proposal to develop a consortium to bid for Parsonage Farm, Dartington

Monday, 28 April, 2014

A once in a generation opportunity has arisen to bid for the farm tenancy at the heart of the Dartington Estate. The present farmer retires in October 2014, and Dartington Hall Trust are now seeking a tenant to take on the 440 acre farm for 20 years.

Following an extensive land use review, Dartington had hoped that Bicton, the local agricultural College, would take on the farm and develop it as an educational resource, with a focus on fossil fuel free farming. Bicton withdrew earlier this year, and so it has become necessary for Dartington to find a new tenant.

A number of interested parties, including the Campaign for Real Farming and Schumacher College, believe that there is the opportunity to create a farm which reflects the core ecological principles at the heart of learning at Schumacher – including diversity, resilience and the interconnection of a wide range of operations.

This would mean inviting a number of partners to work various parts of the land and to engage people who want to develop food related enterprises that add value to primary projects. There are enormous numbers of young farmers with skills and experience who are looking for land so that they can take their next steps on the farming ladder. By creating a consortium to bid for the farm tenancy, we can offer this opportunity and help to develop a “model farm” that demonstrates “real farming” appropriate for the 21st-century.

Dartington have specified four key requirements for the new tenancy:

  • Creation of a mixed farm operating a “best practice” sustainable farm system and techniques including low carbon farming, agro-forestry, high reliance on legumes for nitrogen supply and high reliance on home produced feed. This might include Traditional British Breeds; dairy, beef and sheep, pigs and poultry along with an area of crops in rotation with grass clover leys.
  • Implementation of a programme of low carbon improvements and investments to the farm which might include a variety of sustainable energy initiatives, including possibly anaerobic digestion and small scale PV.
  • Cooperate in any opportunities to collaborate in educational, research and development initiatives associated with the farm policy, and in particular with Dartington’s educational resources, including Schumacher College.
  • Promote and take advantage of any appropriate diversifications that are consistent with the other farm policies and other activities and policies or The Dartington Estate and Trust.

map of dartington estateSchumacher College and the Campaign for Real Farming believe that a consortium approach is the best way to meet the objectives set out by Dartington.

The consortium could have a number of key components, e.g:

  • An experienced farmer who wishes to develop an organic dairy operation, with 100 – 150 cows, on a third of the land.
  • Another farmer, to develop a mixed farming approach (i.e. livestock and arable) on a further third of the land.
  • The remaining third would be dedicated to agro-forestry trials, mixed with horticulture. These elements would be co-ordinated by Schumacher College, who are also exploring the feasibility of a “starter farm” approach offering 10 acre incubator plots to new entrants to horticulture.
  • An emphasis on adding value to primary produce, in order to increase viability.

The deadline for submission of tenders is 27 June 2014, so the time available to develop a consortium is very short. We are looking for support in various areas:

  • Suggestions of farmers who might wish to take on some aspect of the proposed operations within the consortium.
  • Assistance with developing a robust business case, to support the tender application.
  • Offers of financial support, including donations and loans.

For further information, contact Tim Crabtree