Pledges, support and inspiration for the campaign to keep Tillington Farm in co-operative ownership are pouring in.

We have been encouraged and inspired this week, watching support for the Tillington Farm Community Land Trust campaign growing day by day.

Tillington is one of 15 farms, covering a total of 17,000 hectares, which are being sold by the Co-operative Group to cover debt. It is a productive, commercially operating 207 hectare fruit farm producing a variety of apples and honey. You can watch this video  to find out more about the site and campaign.

We are working with a group of people, led by Martin Large and the Biodynamic Land Trust, who have come together to explore the possibility of establishing a new co-operative farm trust capable of buying Tillington. Our aim is to ensure the farm stays in co-operative ownership rather than being sold to foreign private buyers, respecting the saved investment of Co-operative members over time, protecting the jobs of those that work at the farm, safeguarding the site’s ecological integrity and capturing its value for the local community.

The end goal is to purchase the land through community shares and hold it in trust, leasing its management to a separate farming co-operative, such as the existing farm business that operates on site. This eventual purchase could be in the region of £8-10 million.

First thing’s first, however. To submit a credible proposal to the Co-Operative Group, and to form an organisation capable of owning and caring for the site, we have set up our Fighting Fund. We need to rally locals together and gather expertise on legalities, fundraising, finances, promotion and co-operative management. We need a viable business plan and a proposal that has a fighting chance. We have the experts willing and ready to help – but, reasonably enough, they do need paying for their time.

This is the reason for our Fighting Fund crowd funding campaign, and the response has been fantastic. In just four days, we have raised over £8,900, 92% of our £9,800 target.

It has been inspiring to see this level of support, and we thank every one who has pledged, tweeted, Facebooked and talked to their friends about this work. With 11 days left for the Fighting Fund, and weeks for the purchase to be successful, continuing pledges, support and awareness raising are vital.

Of course this is just the start. If we can establish the co-operative farm trust, and if it can make a successful proposal to purchase Tillington, it will then need to raise the asking price for the farm. £8-10 million is a great deal of money to raise through a community share issue, but the response to this initial crowdfunding campaign, and more than 9000 signatures to the 38 degrees petition asking the Co-op Group to halt the sale of the farms,  demonstrates that this is something people not only feel passionately about but are also willing to invest in.

If you want to save co-operatively owned land in the UK, and secure the social, environmental and political value of Tillington Farm, please pledge today, and let others know about it by sharing the campaign!

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