The rise of industrial-scale farming has led to the rapid breakdown of rural communities, as the number of small, family-run farms declines and access to land for new entrants becomes increasingly difficult. Stream Farm’s share farming model seeks to reverse this trend, offering a way in for those without the capital or initial skills.

Each share farmer at Stream Farm is self-employed, taking full responsibility for the day-to-day management of their business. Their livelihood comes from a share of the gross income of the business, and they put in the labour, whilst the farm takes the remaining income to cover the daily running costs and capital equipment. The share farmers at the farm also cooperate together to help out when any of the respective businesses needs more than one or two pairs of hands, such as at apple-picking, barn-cleaning in the winter, and for large orders. We believe that self-employment provides more dignity and a greater sense of self-worth and significance than being paid a wage by a company that is often distantly run and uninvolved with the well-being of its individual employees.

We have been much influenced by Muhammad Yunus who started the largest micro-finance business, Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh. He wrote: ‘ If labour had access to capital…wage employment would only come into the picture as an alternative to self-employment. The more self-employment became attractive…the more difficult it would be to attract people for wage jobs.’

Share farmers have come and gone over the years – over 25 of them – many to continue farming enterprises elsewhere, others to pursue self-employment opportunities down other routes, and some to go abroad to assist subsistence farmers in developing countries such as Zimbabwe.