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Continuing her series on ways in which communities have worked to re-connect with the land that produces their food, Barbara Panvel visits a unique family farm in Shropshire.

Trouble with public transport, a legal system so expensive that only the very poor and the rich can seek justice, many collapsed pensions, a social security and tax system that penalises thrift, long waits for health care, a poor public transport system, employers disappointed by poorly educated entrants, news repeated at every bulletin of violence against the young, the weak and the different - the list could go on - and on.

There are, however, changes for the better brought about by inspired individuals which should become more widely known. Here is the second . . .

What would you have done?

You are in your early twenties - on a low income - and your father has just died. Your family home and fertile organic farm are rented and the landlord wants to sell to a developer.

Charlotte and Ben Hollins thought of a way to build on this threat. They let a wide range of people know about their situation and asked if they would help them to keep the land producing wholesome food - perhaps by taking a share in the farm, or by giving voluntary help with paperwork or the shop or other tasks.

I spent a few hours with Charlotte on this beautiful Shropshire farm months ago - her knowledge, commitment and energy was evident. As one correspondent wrote to her and brother Ben - who is still studying at agricultural college:

Your farm and your ambitions are a ray of light in a world saturated by chemicals and huge profits generated at the expense of the health and life of mankind and the natural world.

Some time later, a very large sum was raised in this way and - together with a bank loan - met the cost of buying Fordhall Farm, which has now been put into a community ownership trust to be held for community, educational and farming benefit forever.

In Scotland tenants were leaving the land as more and more was taken for rural sports by immensely rich landowners.The devolved Scottish government passed a Land Reform Act which gave such people the right to buy the land on they worked at the market price - even if landowners had not put them up for sale. In 2002 a new crofting township was set up on the Kyle of Lochalsh. In 2002 islanders bought Gigha, helped by the Scottish Land Fund.The Isle of Eigg bought by islanders and negotiations for land in Lewis are under way.

Few of us know much about such creative developments. In our region there is rather a feeling of powerlessness as planning blight, compulsory purchase and alienation of parkland and playing fields continues.

For detailed information about locally controlled Community Land Trusts contact an expert, such as Patrick Conaty, who lived for many years in Moseley. He has been working on CLTs because they give people in the area greater control over their long-term future and help to promote the economic, social and environment well-being of the neighbourhood.


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