In 2005 a group of friends formed Common Ground Co-operative Ltd to buy the fields we now know as Berry Farm.
Between us, we were allotment holders, environmental activists, alt tech enthusiasts, conservationists and housing co-op founders. Our vision was to manage land in an ecologically sustainable manner while providing housing and livelihood opportunities for members.
One of the first things we did was to plant 5 acres of mixed native woodland. These provide wildlife habitat and at 14 years old are just starting to be harvested for firewood in a sustainable coppice rotation.
In 2009 National Lottery Grant funding helped us get the market garden project Greengrow Co-operative off the ground. Greengrow delivers fresh, seasonal, chemical-free veg in the local area as well as raising redpoll cattle for beef. Grazing builds up organic matter in the soil, so by rotating cattle with vegetable growing the condition of the soil is sustained and we create a carbon sink. Our traditional hay meadows are home to wildflowers and invertebrates which in turn support the rest of the food chain. Birds of prey including barn owls and buzzards are often to be seen over the farm.
After an ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful early attempt to be granted planning permission to build low impact housing for the whole group, as farmers we were now able to secure permission to build one home on the grounds of agricultural necessity. This now houses Hayley, Todd and their children while other members live nearby in the village.
Gradually the woodlands and meadows have transformed from an idea on a hand-drawn map to established sites of natural beauty. In 2016 we were asked if we could host a camp for a youth group when their usual campsite was fully booked. Seeing how much they enjoyed the space (they've returned every year since!) we were inspired to open up the campsite to a wider audience and later apply for planning permission for 4 shepherd hut style holiday lets, the first of which we are opening this year. This is a double win for us as we've always had an aim of making the countryside more accessible and the income from camping and glamping helps us achieve our environmental aims and secure the future of the farm.