Beacon Farms was established to help safeguard land on the Blue Finger, a hugely important piece of high quality agricultural land on the outskirts of the city of Bristol.
The Blue Finger is very fertile land with Grade 1 soils – this type of land covers less than 3% of the UK. It is named for its shape and colour on a 1950s land use survey map. It is an irreplaceable resource that we want to protect to grow food and other agriculture/horticulture. The land around Winterbourne and Frenchay was historically used for Bristol’s market gardens – you can find out more from The Blue Finger Alliance and you can see how rare Grade 1 soils are on this interactive map.
To this end Beacon Farms was established as a Community Benefit Society which has an asset lock and the potential to establish a democratic membership to ensure any land we hold is looked after in perpetuity – in effect we are a land trust and community enterprise.
We want to re-establish a market gardening landscape and develop a strong farming and growing community in collaboration with existing projects in the area. We named ourselves Beacon Farms as we have always had a vision of establishing a string of Blue Finger based projects in the area that can themselves seed other growing enterprises across Bristol. We are interested in safeguarding land through long leases or purchase. Once we have secured some land we will be helping food producers to use it to run viable enterprises.
If you are also looking for land we recommend you complete the Bristol Food Producers Land Seekers Survey so we know who you are and what you are looking for: bit.ly/lookingforland
What will we use the land for?
We plan to develop one or more Farm Hubs – pioneering, collaborative sites, populated by food producers who want to develop their own businesses and build their confidence in a supportive environment with shared infrastructure.
Our Farm Hubs model has been recognised as groundbreaking and important by Growing Livelihoods, who have chosen us as one of their five 2015/2016 projects. Growing Livelihoods is a partnership between the Plunkett Foundation, Carnegie Trust and the Land Settlement Association; it supports and shares learning from projects that are helping new small-scale farmers and growers to make a livelihood from the land.
Our Farm Hubs could:
- support rural livelihoods by providing practical start-up support for new farming entrants;
- increase the amount of locally produced food available in the area (using sustainable methods);
- facilitate a variety of short courses relating to the skills of food production and processing in collaboration with local projects and Winterbourne Medieval Barn;
- engage the community in habitat management and supporting their local farm land/farmers;
- ensure the appropriate use and care of high quality soils;
- protect and conserve the land now and in the future.
Progress towards securing land
In 2014 we put in an offer on 65 acres of land on Beacon Lane but the farmer decided not to sell at this time. We also went to auction for 7 acres of land in Frenchay, having raised £23,000 from the community for a deposit in just 4 days, but unfortunately we didn’t win because the land went up to £38,000 per acre. You can read more about this here.We also tried to negotiate a lease on 17 acres with South Gloucestershire Council in 2015 – but they couldn’t give us a long enough tenancy to provide security. We tried to secure a long lease for 35+ acres of Blue Finger land in Frenchay in 2016, working alongside current tenants and acting as stewards for the land, but this too fell through when the council withdrew from discussions.
You can read a more detailed report of our journey so far in The Beacon Farms Journey.
You can also sign up to our newsletter on our homepage if you’d like to be kept up to date on our progress.
In addition, we are always open to talking to landowners who are interested in selling or finding growers to take on land on long leases (5 to 10 years). If you are an interested land owner have a look at our Land Appeal Pack.