Seeking future farmers for East Sussex: apply to be a smallholder with the Ecological Land Cooperative

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The ELC are seeking future farmers for their site in East Sussex - could it be you?

The Ecological Land Cooperative opens smallholder applications for future farmers at their East Sussex site, continuing the work of generating ecological farming opportunities and rural enterprise. We hear from Lauren Simpson about how you can apply for this unique opportunity.

The Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) has been granted temporary planning permission by Wealdon District Council to create three affordable smallholdings for new entrant farmers in Arlington, East Sussex and have announced the application process.

The deadline for applicants is midnight on 7th November 2018. For more information on the application process please visit our applications page.

The site was used to grow maize prior to purchase by the ELC

The Arlington site pre-purchase. Credit: Ecological Land Cooperative

The 7.5 hectare site was formerly a maize (corn) field. Industrial maize farming can cause soil erosion, compaction and surface water run-off increasing the risk of flooding. With the creation of three new smallholdings of mixed farms, the site at Arlington will be designed to become more biologically diverse and ecologically resilient.

Vegetable harvest from Steepholding, Greenham Reach

Vegetable harvest from Steepholding, Greenham Reach. Credit: Ecological Land Cooperative

The mission of the ELC is to provide affordable opportunities for ecological land-based businesses in England and Wales. The ELC supports rural regeneration by developing affordable residential sites for farming, forestry and other land-based enterprises which are ecologically beneficial and financially viable.

The ELC is primarily funded through community share issues — people powered investment — with the remaining funds from grant funding and loan financing. The ELC business model retains the freehold on each smallholding in order to protect it for agricultural and ecological use, and as affordable in perpetuity.

Alex Wilson of Steepholding, Greenham Reach

Alex Wilson of Steepholding, Greenham Reach. Credit: Ecological Land Cooperative

The application process aims to identify passionate and committed small-scale farmers with great ideas for bringing local food, employment and agricultural diversity to the area.

“We’re really excited to open up the application process for Arlington and look forward to receiving applicants that share the mission and values of the ELC, particularly our commitment to co-operative working.”

Oliver Bettany, Membership and Engagement Manager

The application process to purchase a lease for one of the ELC’s three smallholdings in Arlington requires a significant amount of work for applicants, including the submission of a detailed business plan.

The price of the holdings is fixed and the ELC is not looking for the highest bidder. Instead, they are looking for applicants who can demonstrate that they will be able to establish and manage an ecological farm business appropriate to the site, its natural resources and location.

The 7.5 hectare site in Arlington, East Sussex

The 7.5 hectare site in Arlington, East Sussex. Credit: Ecological Land Cooperative

The Ecological Land Cooperative is part of a growing movement recognising the value to local communities and the economic viability of small-scale farming, as the report Small is Successful: Creating sustainable livelihoods on ten acres or less explains.

The combined cost of agricultural land and rural housing makes it incredibly difficult for young farmers to live and work on their own land. Between 2000-2010 new farm entrants accounted for just 4% of agricultural land purchasers. The average age of the British farmer is now 59. The ELC was set up to address this issue and to create opportunities for future farmers.

Volunteers working at Steepholding, Greenham Reach

Volunteers working at Steepholding, Greenham Reach. Credit: Ecological Land Cooperative

For more information on the application process and site at Arlington please visit our website.

About the Ecological Land Cooperative

The Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) is a social enterprise, co-operative in structure, established to address the lack of affordable sites for ecological land-based livelihoods in England and Wales. Set up in 2009, the ELC purchases land, obtains planning permission, and installs the infrastructure to create clusters of three or more affordable smallholdings for future farmers.

Harvesting calendula at an ELC smallholding

Helen Kearney of Elder farm harvests calendula at Greenham Reach. Credit: Ecological Land Cooperative

The ELC’s first project, Greenham Reach, in mid-Devon, was granted temporary planning permission in 2013 and is currently awaiting permanent permission. Now home to three thriving smallholdings – including businesses such as veg box scheme, salad bags, micro goat dairy, tree nursery, medicinal herbs, meat and educational course. Greenham Reach is a living example of ecologically managed land providing truly sustainable land-based livelihoods.

The ELC has also purchased land in Wales with a planning application in process.


For those that are interested in applying then we are hosting two open days – Saturday 13th & Wednesday 24th October. We’re excited to meet our potential smallholders and show you the site.

These open days are an opportunity for applicants to walk the land, examine the soil, get a sense of the layout of the site, a feel for the local area and of course ask questions about stuff not covered in the application pack.

There are two time slots on each day when you can come and spend a few hours with us on the site. Please email Oliver Bettany at [email protected] to let him know which date and time slot you’re aiming for:

  • Saturday 13th October – 1pm and 3pm
  • Wednesday 24th October – 11.30am and 1.30pm

You’re welcome to come along on both days if you decide that would be helpful for your application.

There’s no requirement to bring anything in particular with you, apart from your notebooks and questions. We won’t be providing refreshments so please bring a bottle of water, thermos of tea and snacks.

Parking is available at the nearby village hall which is a 5 minute walk from the site entrance, or at limited lay-by parking spots on the road. We suggest attendees come by bicycle if possible, the site is a short 10 minute ride from Berwick station. See this map for details.

Please email [email protected] if you have any questions and to let us know which date and time slot you’ll be coming.

We look forward to meeting you!

The Eclogical Land Cooperative