When Sophie Hopkins, 24, took on the role of project manager for the Fordhall Community Land Initiative, I have to hope she knew what she was letting herself in for. After working for months without a salary, she now gets paid from an EU grant but her days often don’t finish until long into the small hours. And I thought French working hours were excessive…
Sophie works alongside Ben and Charlotte Hollins, on the 128 acres of Fordhall Farm. The farm has been worked by the Hollins family since the 1700’s, but they have never owned the land. And now the owners want to sell up.
A yoghurt factory isn’t quite the organic farming idyll that Ben and Charlotte’s father had in mind when he poured years of effort into preparing the land. Fordhall was hit badly by the foot and mouth crisis. The children inherited the tenancy in 2004 after Arthur Hollins died and now time is up. Exit Family Hollins, enter global conglomerate and concrete mixers galore.
Except that Charlotte, 23 and Ben, 21, haven’t sat back and watched their family’s heritage and a great piece of natural countryside just vanish. The project to save Fordhall has turned into more than a struggle to keep a roof over their heads. It’s about protecting the environment for generations to come. It’s about providing a haven for the wildlife that lives alongside the River Tern. It’s about creating a place for the community which will be open to the public as a research and education centre promoting organic farming and healthy living.
As projects go, that’s an ambitious scope. The issue register runs out the door. Sophie has a hard time keeping up with the various volunteers and ideas. But the killer on this project is the budget. Fordhall Community Land Initiative is a charity with the sole aim of buying the freehold and leasing it back to the Hollins family to continue the farm. They have a month to go to raise enough money to do it. Enough money is £800,000. As of today, their total stands at £507,000.
If you’d like to support the project, you can buy a share in the farm for £50. If the total isn’t raised, you’ll get your stake back. If it is, you’ll get a say in how the farm is run. Not many projects have such a worthy set of objectives. It makes my database project seem pretty insignificant.