New co-op seeks public support to buy organic veg business
Golden Organics, a community co-operative society, is negotiating the possible purchase of Organics to Go, Roger Hallam’s organic vegetables business at Werndolau, Golden Grove, Llandeilo — as reported in the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 23, p.17.
Mr Hallam founded Organics to Go on 10 south-facing acres of loamy soil in 1999, and says it is the only Carmarthenshire organic vegetable farm of which he is aware. The business currently supplies the Organic Fresh Food Company in Lampeter and vegetable boxes to customers locally, in London, and at Mumbles farmers’ market. Most of the vegetable are grown in six polytunnels.
Golden Organics held a public meeting in Golden Grove village hall on September 15 to start finding out how much community support there would be for investing in and buying vegetables from a co-operative society. More than a dozen people turned up, and several wanted to learn more about the risks and opportunities before making any commitment.
The latest published accounts for the business, Organics to Go (West) Ltd, are for the year to March 31 2015 and show shareholders’ funds of £31,364 compared with £33,422 the previous year. Mr Hallam, who has stepped back from farming to study in London, is the sole shareholder.
The strategy document prepared for Golden Organics’ three directors – Anson Allen, Nick Cater and Peter Clarke – reveals that they are aiming to raise an initial £28,000 of the estimated £68,000 take-over costs for the business, which is offered on a 10-year lease with annual rent, and excludes the farmhouse. The money could come from investors including crowd funding, donations, and grants.
Vegetable production comes with no guarantees, and organic production has higher labour demand and thus wage costs than chemical-intensive production. There was a feeling in the hall, expressed by Kelly O’Brien, one of the instigators of the ‘Incredible Edible Carmarthenshire’ project to grow food on community-owned and public land, that public benefit could be a large part of the proposed venture. Partnerships with schools, colleges, green groups and others could be cultivated. Kelly also feels that Golden Organics might fit into the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life’ campaign for better food, including locally sourced organic produce, to be offered in schools.
Golden Organics will now be preparing a full business plan. For more information, contact Anson Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org.