A share offer for the new Jubilee Farm, at Glynn, outside Larne, will close on Friday (January 25).
To date, the sum of £280,000 has been raised to acquire a farmhouse at Glenburn Road and 13.5 acres of land.
The next goal is to reach a £30,000 target for the purchase of farming equipment, livestock, a greenhouse and the installation of polytunnels.
Jubilee Farm is a community-led, Christian-based agricultural and environmental co-operative which was launched initially at a temporary site at Drumalis Retreat Centre, in Larne, last year.
Managing director, Dr. Jonny Hanson, said: “The response has been most encouraging and we are on track to meet our goal. Becoming a member-owner of Jubilee Farm is the perfect opportunity for individuals, families, schools, churches, and community groups to come together and invest in a community enterprise that works for the benefit of everyone.
“The option for members and non-members alike to purchase food from the farm while also getting involved in volunteering and special events, will create a real sense of community ownership and community spirit.
“Our move to the farm at Glenburn Road outside the village of Glynn, has given space and scope to further develop our project.
“Our five-year plan will embrace organic farming, educational outreach, school and group visits, care farming and an internship programme.
“A glamping initiative factored in for year four will also tick the box for rural farm staycations.
“However, within the next six months, a major focus for us will be setting up our veg box scheme, using fresh in-season produce from the farm. In line with our ethos, rediscovering how important being a custodian for the future is and as a Christian organisation, engaging with churches in Ireland, were key factors to our current success.
“Jubilee Farm in essence, is owned by the community and for the community and importantly, welcomes people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Everyone is welcome. It’s a common ground for good in many ways.”
Jonny, with wife Paula and children, Joshua (aged 8) Bethany (aged 6) and Sophia (aged 3) have just moved on-site to live at Jubilee Farm.
“When I was a child I wanted to be both a farmer and a conservationist. With this job I have a foot in both camps with my interests in nature and wildlife on one hand, and in sustainable agriculture and agroecology on the other hand.
“A second Jubilee Farm Pig Club has already started with the pre-sale of 28 pig quarters. As many people are perhaps a little out of touch about where their food comes from, the idea behind the pig club is to market pig meat not just as pork but also as various cuts from the animal, giving not only traceability but useful insight into the production of high-welfare outdoor pigs.
“Turkeys will be raised in time for Christmas 2019. While, the planned addition of goats to the smallholding in the near future, will see them effectively manage the adjacent scrubland.
“At our Bioblitz Festival of Science and Nature in June 2018, we welcomed more than 400 members of the public to participate in a 24-hour programme of walks, talks and activities. Our Bioblitz Festival will also run again this year, taking place on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 June, marking the official opening of Jubilee Farm.“
The last series of community volunteer days last year brought in over 100 volunteers, while almost 100 primary school children attended one of the curriculum-based nature education learning sessions.
Developing outreach to schools will also bring dedicated teacher tours for education professionals to the venue on February 27 and March 8.
Outreach to other groups such as the CARE – (Care farming for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and the Environment) project will offer structured volunteering opportunities to refugee asylum seeker groups.
The first group of four to participate in the project includes refugees and asylum seekers from the Ivory Coast, Syria and Iran, some of whom were farmers in their home countries.
Society secretary Dr. Jeni McAughey added: “We started with less than ten members but through the help and guidance of Co-operative Alternatives and the Plunkett Foundation, we have steadily built our member base.
“Adopting the cooperative model has brought many benefits such as engaging with members who have shared values and diverse skill sets. This has developed a synergy from pooled resources, such as financial advice and business support alongside practical skills such as animal husbandry.“
The society currently has 105 members.
Tiziana O’Hara, from Cooperative Alternatives, said: “The existence of Jubilee Farm is of great importance as an example of sustainable community enterprise which creates economic, ecological, and social value.
“With the Plunkett Foundation, we supported Jubilee and, in particular, developed their investment offer to the local community and allowed them to raise the necessary capital. This successful initiative proves that there is a wide interest for projects that bring members ownership and democratic participation back to the heart of farming.“
The society’s aim is to “create permanence locked into the ecosystem through a long-term contribution to the stewardship of the countryside and a responsibility to nature, will provide a legacy for generations to come. An oak tree will be planted on the first members’ day to symbolise this nod to nature and the future”.
For further information, see www.jubilee.coop