Funding boost for ‘real farming’

A new package of funding and support for ‘real farming’ will be launched on 13 July.

The Just Growth programme aims to nurture the development of community enterprises that are farming and producing food in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Co-operative & Community Finance is working in partnership with the Real Farming Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to deliver the programme in England, Scotland and Wales.

Over the next 18 months Just Growth plans to help up to 14 community-based farming projects to either start up, expand or develop new activities that make them more resilient and sustainable. Up to eight of these projects will receive a funding package made up of one third loan finance from Co-operative & Community Finance and one third grant funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The remaining third has to be raised from the local community either through crowdfunding or community shares. The minimum loan amount is £15,000 and this must be matched or exceeded by the amount raised through community finance. The grant will match the loan but will be capped at £20,000. The eight projects receiving funding will also get three days of specialist advice. The other projects will receive one and a half days of expert support to help them develop their business plans so they are more ready for future investment.

Clare Horrell has been appointed to manage Just Growth. She has over seven years’ experience of working with community-supported food and agriculture projects for Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. She said: “We believe that agriculture needs to be just and fair for people and the environment. Just Growth aims to nurture a just agricultural model through encouraging and supporting small scale farming. We are particularly keen to see more community ownership in food and farming and we will be looking for organisations with strong co-operative principles embedded in their structure.”

The three-pronged approach to funding the projects using an equal mix of loan, grant and community finance has been used very successfully in the past by Co-operative & Community Finance and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to support community-owned shops.

Ian Rothwell of Co-operative & Community Finance said: “We are very excited by the Just Growth programme. We are using a funding model that has been tried and tested with great success, so we are as confident as we can be that it will work with community-supported agriculture.”

Projects interested in applying to the Just Growth programme should visit for more information and an application form.

Just Growth is a project of the Funding Enlightened Agriculture network which itself is a project of the Real Farming Trust. The mission of the Real Farming Trust is to enable the growth of farming and food production practices that are economically sound and democratic, socially just, humane to animals, and promote the long-term protection of natural resources.