New farmers, gardeners, chefs, cheesemakers and textile producers are among those being encouraged to apply to join a historic estate in the process of creating progressive community of food and farming businesses.
After four generations of conventional farming, Kingsclere Estates, located on 2,500 acres of land just outside Basingstoke in Hampshire, is offering up land, investment and expertise to forward-thinking sustainable businesses to become part of its ‘circular community’.
Dubbed ‘Pitch Up!’, applications are open until the end of this month for businesses, with winners receiving a range of support including land and storage space; roadside retail opportunities; support for new ideas via the Kingsclere Incubation Hub; low overheads and shared running costs; help with accounting and marketing; and access to industry knowledge and contacts.
It’s all part of managing director Tim May’s vision to create a ‘closed loop’ system where businesses can benefit from each other’s raw ingredients, waste or by-product, and in the process turn away from commodity farming.
He said: “Whether established raw material growers, start-up farmers and market gardeners, food and drinks producers, veg box scheme creators, chefs, skincare producers, textile producers, glamping enthusiasts, forest school teachers, wildlife experts, craftspeople or just plain visionaries. If you want to create a sustainable venture using – and contributing back into – the produce or by-products of our estate, we want to hear from you.”
Kingsclere, which will complete its conversion to organic in 2023, is currently home to several small businesses already, including the ‘Roaming Dairy’ (a mobile milking parlour and dairy herd), a quinoa grower, and a linseed grower, with the diversity in plants combined with fertility from the dairy improving soil health and the biodiversity on the land.
In particular, the estate pointed out the potential for food businesses to link up with the dairy to make products from its organic milk, or explore how by-products from cheese production, like whey protein, could be used as a protein source for livestock.
“I’ve seen first-hand the outcome of commodity farming, and conversely, the benefits of working within a circular economy – designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials in use for as long as possible, and regenerating natural systems,” said May.
“For farming to come into the 21st century, we need innovation and new brains, new thinking. We want to hear from you; this is your call to action,” he added.
Applications to Pitch Up! are open until 30 November.