The Agroecology Land Trust registered as a Community Benefit Society in 2016 to promote agroecology, food sovereignty and enable land workers to access land, training and resources. A pioneering rural community enterprise, they are creating a low impact development for shared equity, self build, co-housing that supports innovative approaches to land management.

The Trust’s base is a 70 acre mixed broadleaf and conifer woodland at Coed Talylan on the western edges of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Carmarthenshire. A philanthropic supporter purchased the woods providing time for the Society to raise funds to buy the site using withdrawable shares – a method of finance that has enabled hundreds of communities to own shops, pubs and other amenities. The Society plans two share offers – an offer to existing supporters of the Society in early 2021, and a public community share offer in 2022-23.

Fungi and mushroom cultivation is central to the Society’s work. A range of fresh and dried mushrooms, teas and “grow kits” are produced in their mushroom laboratory and processing facility. The Land Trust are also cultivating a fungal forest nature reserve, a refuge for fungi, on 30 acres of the site. They call this a Refungium.

The Land Trust hosts regular courses, workshops and residentials delivered by a co-operative management company called Coed Talylan Ltd. They cover sustainable living subjects such as:

  • Mushroom cultivation
  • Carpentry for Women
  • Off Grid and Renewable Energy
  • One Planet Living

One Planet Development policy in Wales allows residential development in open countryside providing the applicant can meet a target reduction in their impact on global resources (Ecological Footprint Analysis). This includes a commitment to growing or rearing 30% of their food on site. Permission has been granted for a first dwelling on site with aspirations for 2 more.   With help from Wales Co-op Centre and Confederation of Co-operative Housing, the Land Trust have developed a co-housing model to co-operatively manage the residents’ living arrangements. Long term leases rather than outright ownership will ensure that the vision for the whole site is protected and housing for future occupants remains affordable.

The site is powered by renewable energy. Existing PV solar panels will be supplemented by a small wind turbine, solar thermal panels and bringing two pelton wheel hydro turbines back into use.

Plunkett support:

Plunkett Foundation provided Agroecology Land Trust with specialist community business support using funding from The Dulverton Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. This included:

  • Guidance on changes to their governing document
  • Breaking down the development into stages and planning how the share offers will meet the needs of the Society interact with each other.
  • Developing a financial model to understand cashflows, profitability and provide financial projections suitable for a community share offer.
  • Guidance on good practice for community shares offers.

James Scrivens, Society Secretary, praised the support from Plunkett Foundation:

“It has been invaluable. Financial modelling is not our area of expertise – we understand mushrooms and woodlands. Making sense of the numbers in an interactive way is essential and we had no experience of setting up a financial model.” Pausing to take in the view across the valley, he added, “Having a critical friend outside of the community business to challenge details in the business plan saved a huge amount of time and that external push was a great help”

Future plans:

Future plans include an eco-campsite and retreat centre demonstrating how integrated systems and co-operative enterprise can create a more ecological way of living.

Supporters who invest in community shares will have a say in the governance of the Society along with lease holders and people working on the land. Woodlands require a long term vision. Delegating day to day management to a co-operative of training providers and land workers and a residents’ co-operative will enable the Directors of the Society to focus on the long term strategic issues.

Watch this video showcasing a carpentry workshop at Coed Talyan.

If you would like to find out more about the Land Trust’s mushrooms, courses or to invest in their 2022 share offer see their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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