The majority of our members are farming on smaller acreages, typically anywhere between 1 and 20 hectares. At the moment our biggest challenge is access to markets. Over the last 20 years or so there has been significant under-investment in the infrastructure needed to support small-scale enterprises such as ours; I am thinking of local abattoirs, local creameries, food processing infrastructure, seed networks and things like that. What would really help us is targeted support for local food funding, to recognise the networks and infrastructure required to get the food from the farm to the market.
To give you my example, I farm a community-supported agriculture scheme in Devon, which we started in 2010 without any money. We got a grant from the Big Lottery Fund and were able to invest in polytunnels and the infrastructure required to get our operation up and running, including the machinery that we needed and a delivery vehicle. With that small grant, we managed to build a business over a relatively short amount of time. We are now independent of grant funding.
Our experience teaches us that our members have had similar challenges, but not all have been fortunate enough to secure an initial capital grant. For local food grant funding, seed funding for SME agricultural start-ups would be a fantastic way of getting small enterprises up and running, to the point where they can be financially independent.