Egholm Folkefarm (Egholm Community Farm)
SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL AGRICULTURE’S (SBA) INVOLVEMENT IN EGHOLM FOLKEFARM
Organic Denmark (OG) entered into an agreement with Thomas and Sissel to help establish the farming company that would be called Egholm Folkefarm. Together, we developed the agreement that would be entered into with the citizens. It in-cluded considerations on how the citizens would be involved, how large an amount they would pay to participate and what they would get in return. During the process, a new party was involved, Folkeoplysningsforbundet Fokus (General Education Association), from Aalborg. They entered into a collaboration with Egholm Folkefarm concerning the establishment of social jobs.
SBA provided financing for lawyer services to formulate the necessary legal documents and for an advertising agency to prepare graphical materials for the concept, a website as well as marketing materials. SBA also helped to convert the agri-culture to organic farming and to create awareness about the project, and SBA also arranged a local meeting to inform the inhabitants of the island of Egholm about the community farm.
Egholm Folkefarm has two types of owners. Thomas and Sissel own 55% of the A-shares with voting rights, while Fokus Agro owns 45%. B-shares without voting rights are sold to the citi-zens. One B-share costs DKK 5000.
Thomas and Sissel rent land and buildings for the operating company Egholm Folkefarm ApS. The operating company runs the agriculture and is the legal entity which sells people shares and enters into agreements with citizens, customers and exter-nal partners.
Thomas is the CEO, and a board has been established with Sissel as chairperson. B-shareholders have a place on the board.
Shares are distributed in accordance with demand and pro-duction, since the goal is to produce food for all shareholders. The company structure makes it possible to expand as needed and as opportunities present themselves, and the sharehold-ers can trade shares at market price.
The people shares provide liquid capital for the operating company and establish a connection between the sharehold-ers and the community farm.
The shareholders are ambassadors for Egholm Folkefarm and its products. They contribute with competences and networks, which benefit the operating company.
The vision for Egholm Folkefarm is to process part of the production. This can be a good business, but it requires planning and liquidity for investments. The sale of Egholm Folkefarm shares may be of critical importance to the financing and pro-cessing facilities.
EXPERIENCE AND LEARNING
The foundation of Egholm Folkefarm was characterised by and had the goal of establishing a dialogue with neighbours and other residents of Egholm, competitors/colleagues, with the public sector and of course with customers and investors.
Communication, in its broadest interpretation, is therefore key to a project like Egholm Folkefarm.
Thomas Gellert Larsen and Sissel Hermansen have been excellent communicators. They entered into dialogues with farmers and landowners on the island, concerning land rent-al, machines, workforce, etc., and early in the process, citizen meetings were held to involve the island’s inhabitants.
The newspaper, radio and TV media were invited, and Thom-as and Sissel followed up with information on their website and on Facebook, and all the elements supported each other constructively.
The lesson here is that by involving citizens in a farming com-pany, it is important to be able to enter into the right dialogue with the citizens, but also to communicate with neighbours and through the media that will disseminate information to the citizens. It may be a good idea for similar projects to obtain assistance in creating a communication plan.
• Egholm Folkefarm ApS is owned by Thomas Gellert Larsen, Sissel Hermansen, Daghøjskolen Fokus (a day high school), as well as the citizens who bought shares in the community farm.
• The farm leases 32 ha from Thomas Gellert Larsen and Sissel Hermansen plus 20 ha from its neighbours.
• Vegetables and meat are produced for the farm’s shareholders.
• Daghøjskolen Fokus uses Egholm Folkefarm as an internship location for the school’s students.
• The community farm is located on the Limfjord island of Egholm near Aalborg.
• Egholm consists of about 500 ha; the farming areas are being converted to organic production