Stockwood Community Benefit Society (Stockwood CBS) was established to ensure the long-term community ownership of Rush Farm, a biodynamic-organic farm and the co-located Stockwood Business Park. Based in Worcestershire, Rush Farm itself was the inspiration for the long-running radio soap ‘The Archers’.
Community ownership was seen as the solution to the farm’s owners concerns about succession, ensuring it could be protected from private ownership over the long-term. With this, Stockwood CBS was established to purchase the farm, in which a community share offer enabled the local people to invest, take ownership and guarantee that the farm and business park would operate for the benefit of the community.
By owning the whole estate – the farm and business park together – the society has a robust business model while also being able to deliver its environmental and social objectives. In particular, as well as the biodynamic organic farm, there are a number of different tenants in the business park including an accountants practice, a classic car mechanic and a child care facility.
HOW DID THEY RAISE THE INVESTMENT?
The overall purchase for Rush Farm and Stockwood Business Park amounted to £2.6 million. The community share offer contributed over £400,000 from nearly 150 members. The remaining finance was secured via £2 million of debt from CAF Bank, Biodynamic Land Trust and Resonance’s Community Share Underwriting Fund.
The offer was open for five months with the minimum raise for the offer to proceed initially set at £750,000 and the maximum was £1,000,000. However, Stockwood CBS received underwriting from Resonance and so were able to proceed despite receiving a lower amount in share capital than their initial target.
The minimum investment was fixed at £100 and the maximum was £20,000, with nearly half investing less than £200.
The shares are withdrawable on 180 days’ notice with forecast financial return targeted at 5% and calculated quarterly.
THE INVESTOR’S VIEW
“Now with the community shares scheme we have 144 landlords. Running a business on the farm is great; it is a community. We also get the opportunity to help out on the farm at the weekend… This farm is a fantastic place to work.”
Mark Ayres, Altus Group – Business Park tenant and investor