We’re aware we haven’t written a Kindling Farm update for a while. It’s been a busy few months and, to be honest, a bit of a roller coaster ride since we last wrote.
Where to start but at the beginning (not at the very beginning, don’t worry). When last we wrote we were about to launch our community shares campaign to buy a farm. For obvious reasons it wasn’t quite the launch we had imagined, with events, farm related activities, an evening celebration to invite you all to….but all was not lost, we had you on our side!
Instead we galvanised friends and supporters to help us spread the word in whatever way we could. For some, that was a socially distanced photo shoot, using our beautiful banners and hopeful and food revolutionary placards, which we did at our Glazebury site where our newly grafted heritage fruit trees are now happily growing away! For others it was taking part in a social media storm or dressing up as pea pods and chatting away to customers queuing outside Unicorn Grocery.
And what a response we received; we were overwhelmed by the interest and support that flooded in. The conversations in the queue were fascinating and enthusiastic (unexpectedly so, to be honest). After the months of building up to the campaign launch, we had a realisation that we were about to approach complete strangers in the street and ask them if they wanted to buy a farm with us. ‘Why would they?’ we thought, but they did.
From leafleting queues, to our fruit tree grafting workshops, to the investor surgeries and talks we have been doing on zoom, we have found ourselves engaged in really interesting conversations about a whole spectrum of food, farming and investing money topics, and with (and between) a wide range of ages, genders, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. With farming being one of the least diverse sectors in the UK, this felt like a really positive and hopeful start for Kindling Farm.
Within a month of launching our campaign, aiming to raise between £390,000 and £650,000, we had over-reached our target, with a total of £690,000 investment raised! What’s really humbling is that this was all without us being able to specify the farm. And that leads me on to the slight dip in the ride.
In mid-May we were contacted by the owner of the farm we were hoping to buy. He told us that his situation had changed and he was not in a position to sell at this time.
This was, of course, a huge blow. Tired from the campaign, and knowing that this meant a lot of additional work, there were moments when our childhood dreams (of being a weather reporter, holiday rep, cheese maker…) were looking pretty tempting. But after the initial disappointment we began to see some silver linings and ways to overcome this latest setback. After consulting with our amazing community of advisors we realised that on reflection it isn’t as impactful as it might sound - and it definitely isn’t going to stop us establishing Kindling Farm.
We are a determined and resilient bunch. When establishing Bridge 5 Mill we fell in love with a number of buildings that we believed we could buy but didn’t (for a myriad of reasons). Although at times we felt we’d never get there, we did. And we also found that each time we went through the process of finding, evaluating, surveying and offering to buy a building we gained new insight, knowledge, friends, supporters and confidence.
As stated in the share offer document, while this farm was a great opportunity, we also knew that it wasn’t definite. Nothing is, if you don’t have the ready cash at hand. This is part of the huge challenge with the food and farming system that we are trying to address! With this in mind, we have continued to explore other opportunities and have strong contingencies in place. Only a month or so ago we looked at another farm in the same area that was about to go on the market.
A big reason that we still feel so optimistic is because of the huge number of people who have invested so far. Without us being able to reveal the location of the farm we were looking at, so many people chose to put their faith in the vision for Kindling Farm and our business model. While we now need to find a new farm, our vision, commitment and business model haven’t changed - and the more we raise in community shares, the stronger our position when looking for and securing a farm to make Kindling Farm a reality.
And so, following a couple of weeks of madly beavering away, revising business planning and share offer documents, and with thanks to all of our incredible friends and supporters, we are back on track:
- Our land agent (and a number of our amazing supporters) are contacting everyone they know (and don’t) in the farming world to spread the word that we are looking for a suitable farm.
- We have increased our community shares target to raise as much as we can (up to £1.3 million) towards the purchase of a farm - so if you didn’t manage to buy your shares last time, now is your chance.
- We’re organising a number of new investor surgery zoom events and we’ve actually got an event in person at our Woodbank Community Food Hub site to answer all your farm questions (sign up soon, the tickets are going like hotcakes). what is this?
So please join us to help with the final big push for the last month of our Kindling Farm community shares campaign.
A Heartfelt Thank You
Finally we want to say thank you to you all. The more people involved, the more support there is to making Kindling Farm a success in creating a fairer and more sustainable food system. We hope you will come with us on this journey, in whatever way you can, and for everything you’ve done so far we wanted to say a huge thank you!
In excitement and anticipation, the Kindling Team