Helen Browning

Helen Browning

Entrepreneurs are being sought for an opportunity to create new food and farming businesses at a 300-acre farm in Maple Cross, Hertfordshire.

Woodoaks Farm, which was gifted to the Soil Association Land Trust by farmer Sally Findlay in November 2020, has a vision to create a vibrant food and farming hub to serve the local community high-quality produce.

The aim is to become a model for nature-friendly, sustainable farming, which produces healthy food and enriches the lives of the people who live nearby.

To achieve its aim the farm is seeking producers and entrepreneurs to join a cluster of food and farming businesses. Through their different and complementary offerings, these businesses will support each other to build direct relationships with local customers and develop community-focused supply chains.

'Enjoy food and connect with nature'

Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning explained: “This is a fantastic opportunity for local businesses and individuals to join us at Woodoaks and help co-create a vibrant food and farming hub which will serve the local community with great food and other products from the farm and woodlands. We want this to be a place which people can enjoy and connect with nature.

“We are relishing the opportunity as the next custodians of the farm, which is already a haven of wildlife. We will fulfil Sally’s wish that it transitions to organic and becomes a showcase for a robust and regenerative system that will support a climate-friendly, nature-rich future, providing meaningful livelihoods for a diverse community.'

The farm has been run by the Findlay family since 1922 and operated as a successful mixed arable and dairy farm using ‘modern day’ techniques.

It already has a successful craft brewery, café, resident artist and an artisan wood worker.

Call for ideas

Soil Association programme manager at Woodoaks, Rose Lewis, said: “We are very excited by the prospects for the farm as we begin to transform it as a centre for organic excellence, producing great food in a way that’s good for people, nature and climate. We think the farm has huge potential as an incubator for start-ups, existing businesses and local entrepreneurs keen to embark on their own challenge to create successful sustainable businesses.

“We are calling for individuals and partnerships to register their interest from the end of this month. We will invite interested parties to visit the farm in October and November to look at possibilities and discuss their ideas. At this stage we are just asking for a brief description of their business concept. We are looking for some really exciting projects which both reflect the vibrant local community but also harness the farm’s assets and potential products.”

“Even if you have just a kernel of an idea and the passion to succeed, we would love to hear your proposal. It could be anything from a market garden to a micro-dairy, a bakery or even a forest school – or perhaps an artisan craft business making homewares. We have plenty of space to create this entrepreneurial hub for innovative organic food and farming businesses.”

Interested parties should visit www.woodoaksfarm.com for more information and to register to attend an open day in October.