Closure-threatened farm ‘upbeat’ as fund grows

Joanne Mudhar of Oak-Tree Low Carbon Farm in Ipswich

Joanne Mudhar of Oak-Tree Low Carbon Farm in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich-based community-supported agriculture project facing closure in the autumn over funding and red tape issues says its members are feeling “upbeat” after a crowdfunding campaign was launched to save it.

Members of the farm group at Oak-Tree Low Carbon Farm in Ipswich

Members of the farm group at Oak-Tree Low Carbon Farm in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm, a not-for-profit social enterprise, held its annual farm members’ meeting on Wednesday at the town’s Rushmere St Andrew Baptist Church, Ipswich.

The farm, which has 65 vegetable shares and 200 members, runs an innovative “Community Supported Agriculture” Scheme, where farm members share the risks and rewards of farming.

Owner Joanne Mudhar said for unforseen reasons, financial help to establish sustainability and firm financial roots through cut flower and fruit sales is no longer available, which meant three full time growers employed by the business were, voluntarily for the rest of the summer, working for less than the minimum wage.

The farm is not entitled to European Union subsidies because at 4.96 hectares, it’s just below the 5ha size where funds become available. Various rules and regulations have meant the farm has so far been unable to contruct a permanent building on the site, it says.

The farm said messages of support had been flooding in, and despite the farm’s current serious financial challenges, the mood was upbeat. So far, more than £10,800 has been raised through the crowd-funding initiative, but Ms Mudhar said the farm’s future was “entirely dependent” on meeting the “Survive” crowdfunding target, currently set at £27,000.

“The farm community has really pulled together to support the campaign, with farm members offering a wide range of crowdfunding ‘perks’ from house cleaning to bee-keeping courses to supporters who pledge financial support to save the farm. Other members are selling items on ebay, and doing publicity work to spread the word about the campaign,” said Ms Mudhar.

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“Members were excited to get involved with early plans for a future small scale community building to offer much needed shelter to the 200 or so farm members who get involved with day-to-day work on the farm as well receiving an equal share of the farm harvest. Consultation with local residents about the building plans would begin in late 2015.

“Into the future the farm hopes to further develop its local cut flower enterprise, and also to offer fruit shares to farm members as the farm’s fruit trees and bushes get established.”

There are about 80 small community farms across the UK.