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'I hope dad would be proud': Market Drayton farm wins national charity award

By Rob Smith | Market Drayton | News | Published:

The "quite extraordinary and trailblazing" achievements of a Shropshire farm were rewarded this week with a national charity award.

From left: Margaret Clark, chair of Plunkett trustees, Charlotte Hollins, Fordhall Organic Farm, James Alcock, Plunkett Foundation chief executive and Charlie Luxton, Plunkett centenary ambassador

The Fordhall Organic Farm outside Market Drayton has been in the care of the Hollins family for more than 300 years and the current custodians Charlotte and Ben Hollins made history in 2006, when they secured its status as England's first community-owned farm.

They saw off the threat of eviction and spearheaded the Fordhall Community Land Initiative, which to this day owns the farm on behalf of its 8,000 shareholders around the world.

Now Charlotte has been recognised for her passion and "boundless energy" by the Plunkett Foundation, which made her a centenary fellow at an awards ceremony in London.

The foundation supports rural communities and community businesses and presented Charlotte with its centenary award in its 100th year.

James Alcock, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “What has been achieved at Fordhall Farm is quite extraordinary and trailblazing – and none of it would have been possible without Charlotte Hollins.

"Not only was she instrumental in saving her family’s farm from the threat of redevelopment, she has shown what is possible through community ownership – and pushed on with a wide variety of projects which make Fordhall the diverse and successful place it is today.

"She has shown passion, dedication and boundless energy in her efforts and it is a great moment for the Plunkett Foundation to be able to honour her achievements with this fellowship.”

The farm offers various educational, training and social activities for many groups and individuals. Earlier this year its new bunkhouse opened, to offer even more opportunities.

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Charlotte with her award

Charlotte said: "I was completely surprised and taken aback by the award. Being named as the Plunkett Foundation's Centenary Fellow for Community Business is a huge honour.

"But I have to say that my success and indeed Fordhall's successes have only been possible because of the staff, volunteers and shareholders who have been involved with the farm both past, present and future. They are all part of our story, our journey and will always be part of our successes.

"I hope dad would be proud of everything we have achieved. He was such an inspirational advocate for organic farming and I hope to be working my way to doing the same for the community business sector.

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"I passionately believe that the land ownership system in our country needs re-prioritising and if what we have done at Fordhall can help encourage that movement, then all the better.

"The awards ceremony was a great affair in central London. It was quite surreal for a country girl like me, to be walking past the Ritz and Fortnum & Mason when only a few hours before I was crossing the yard in Shropshire in mud.

"It was great to meet so many others in the community business sector, including other farms that we have supported, such as Jubilee Community Farm in Northern Ireland, who used Fordhall's model as their foundation for their new community business. It really is so rewarding to see."

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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