Primary Funding Sources
Scottish Edge – Offers up to £100,000 of funding split between a grant and a loan, for Scottish businesses in all sectors. KelpCrofting, who we featured as a case study, received a grant from Scottish Edge of £15,000. Their next round of funding opens in July 2021.
Small Woodland Loan Scheme (SWLS) – The SWLS is tied to the FGS’s woodland creation scheme and is designed to help reduce the amount of money needed upfront for applicants with smaller scale woodland creation projects. To be eligible, you must be a new applicant to the FGS’s woodland creation scheme and must meet the eligibility criteria for that scheme too, and your woodland creation project must be no larger than 50 hectares, nor must the FGS’s grant paid to you for this project total more than £250,000. While your project can be up to 50 hectares in size, the SWLS loan will only cover up to 50% of the costs for the project’s ‘capital items’ and only on a maximum of 20 hectares of the project.
The Borders Forest Trust – For growers located in the Scottish Borders, this organisation can provide free advice for tree planting and up to £1,000 in funding for tree planting projects on areas smaller than 0.25 hectares. Applications to the Borders Tree Planting Grant for 2021 open in the summer.
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) – HIE offer a variety of funding, investment and training options that are updated fairly often. Green Grow Foods, another one of our case studies, received funding through one of their schemes.
The Organic Research Centre’s Dean Organic Fund – They offer interest free loans for growers who are organic or who grow using agroecological methods but aren’t certified organic. Loans range from £5,000-£25,000 and can be repaid over a maximum of five years. Some of the projects who received loans from them can be found here.
The Prince’s Countryside Fund – They offer a rural start-up fund of up to £5,000 for rural UK businesses, which can be helpful for any diversification endeavours such as branching out into tourism.
The Scottish Government’s Agri-Environmental Climate Scheme (AECS) – For stock-free growers, applications made in 2021 are limited to funding these activities: organic farming conversion or maintenance costs, managing your land to benefit protected areas and/or vulnerable bird species, and improving public access. All types of agricultural land are eligible for funding for organic activities, and to receive funding for managing your land to benefit different ecosystems or species you can carry out practices relevant to your type of land (e.g. arable land, wetland, grassland, etc.). Applications for AECS grants in 2021 close on the 30th of June.
The Scottish Government’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) – To receive this funding, you must be farming at least 3 hectares, and only the hectares of land that are being used for agricultural activity are eligible to be covered. If you are a young farmer (under 40 years old) and/or you are a new entrant to farming (started an agricultural activity in 2013 or later), you should instead apply to the National Reserve. For stock-free growers, eligible land counts as arable land and permanent crop land (land occupied by non-rotational crops for more than 5 years, and which is repeatedly harvested). Some stock-free growers may also have areas of permanent grassland they want to cultivate, which, unless it is Environmentally Sensitive Grassland (ESG), might be allowed after you have consulted your local area office and possibly carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). If you have over 15 hectares of arable land, the scheme also requires you to comply with ‘greening’ requirements in order to receive payment. This means you need to maintain an Ecologically Focused Area (EFA) on 5% of your arable land which essentially consists of incorporating one or more of the seven EFA practices such as using nitrogen-fixing crops and/or catch crops on at least 5% of the land. Arable land here is defined as any land put to arable crops, fallow, temporary grassland, leguminous crops and herbaceous crops. Greening requirements also apply to stock-free growers with leftover permanent grassland who will need to provide an annual report detailing any applications of inorganic nitrogen fertiliser or lime on this permanent grassland.
The Scottish Government’s Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) – The grant can be used to fund various activities, but the following are most relevant to stock-free land: erection/improvement of agricultural buildings, land management (e.g. bracken control), establishing shelter belts, hedges, fences, gates, etc., and the provision or improvement of amenities such as water supplies. Stock-free crofts growing food for human consumption are considered non-traditional in this scheme, so, in order to be eligible for this grant they must also submit a full business plan which identifies market outlets for the croft’s produce. A family living in the Hebrides used a CAGS grant to help pay for the costs of erecting a polycrub on their croft, so they could diversify into fruit and vegetable growing.
The Scottish Government’s Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) – The FGS can support you with woodland creation, improvement, management, agroforestry and more. We explore some of the FGS’s sub-grants in more detail below:
Agroforestry – This grant covers the initial agroforestry planting costs and the yearly maintenance costs for 5 years. You have the option to plant either 200 or 400 trees per hectare with this grant. Planting 200 trees per hectare entitles you to £1,860 for the initial planting costs and £48 per year for maintenance of that hectare. For 400 trees per hectare, the payments increase to £3,600 and £84 per year, respectively. To be eligible, your land must be 0.25-15 hectares in size, and either permanent grassland pasture, temporary grassland, or arable land. Up to 20% of the trees planted can consist of fruit trees. With stock-free silvoarable systems, you are allowed to grow any of the arable crops in this list (sections 2.1 (a) to (c)).
New Natural Regeneration Establishment – This grant supports the successful natural regeneration of native trees on open ground located within and/or around the edge of existing woodland. There must be a likelihood of native tree regeneration to occur in the first place, and the establishment of native trees must also meet the objectives set out in the Woodland Improvement Grant’s section on habitats and species. The costs for natural regeneration projects can be claimed back after 5 years if the following criteria have been met: there is a minimum of 400 naturally regenerated trees per hectare, these trees are healthy, the average height of these trees is larger than 0.5 metres, and these trees are in a condition that allows them to keep growing with normal maintenance operations in place (e.g. protection from grazing animals).
Woodland Creation – This grant can cover the initial planting costs, annual maintenance costs for up to five years, and the costs of relevant capital operations like fencing. Eligibility is dependent on various factors such as how new woodland fits in with your local woodland strategy, which tree species are suitable for your land, the presence of deep peat, consent from your landlord (if applicable), and more. In our case study on Robin Bell’s Sutherland croft, he was reimbursed just under £70,000 for planting 22,000 trees over 34 acres, in addition to receiving an annual maintenance income of about £4,000 for five years. As Robin pointed out, one of the drawbacks to this scheme is that you can only claim back the costs after the initial plantings and capital operations have been satisfactorily completed, so a large amount of money is required upfront. Update: see the SWLS above for additional funds for the FGS’s woodland creation scheme.
The Woodland Trust’s MOREhedges scheme – This scheme can cover 75% of the planting costs where 100-250 metres of new hedges are being established and where large trees are allowed to grow every 6 metres along this hedgerow. To be eligible, these hedges also need to connect to 0.1 hectares of new or existing woodland, either directly or indirectly (connecting to other hedgerows that are connected to woodland), so they can serve as wildlife corridors. If you are also planting woodland through the MOREwoods scheme, you could be entitled to funds for up to 1,000 metres of newly planted hedges. Their next round of applications opens this spring, for plantings from November 2021 to March 2022.
The Woodland Trust’s MOREwoods scheme – This funding is suitable for persons looking to plant over 500 trees on a minimum of half a hectare of land. The Woodland Trust can help you design the new woodland, supply the trees and tree protection equipment, and cover up to 75% of the total costs. This funding cannot be used for restocking of existing woodland or recently felled woodland. While there is no maximum limit to the area being planted, we have been told that it is advisable to use other schemes like the FGS (see above) for plantings over areas larger than 3 hectares. Balnamoon Croft planted over 10,000 trees on their land with help from this scheme. Their next round of applications opens this spring, for plantings from November 2021 to March 2022. There is an additional MOREwoods scheme dedicated to crofts which you can contact them about to find more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The UK Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) – The creation of new woodland enables landowners to obtain an additional income stream by selling carbon credits associated with the new woodland. By having your woodland creation project assessed and verified by the WCC, this adds credibility to your project which can help attract buyers who want a reliable source of carbon credits. The WCC also reports that landowners tend to sell carbon credits upfront for between £5 and £15 per tonne of carbon dioxide sequestered. Income made from carbon credits is not subject to income or corporation tax and selling voluntary carbon credits does not incur VAT. There are a number of examples of different Scottish woodland creation projects that have utilised carbon credits such as the Caledonian Woodland Carbon Scheme and Glenlochay Native Woodland Creation.
Crowdfunder – Tolhurst Organics successfully used this platform to fundraise money to upgrade one of their buildings. As the example of Tolhurst Organics shows, it is useful if possible to incentivise donations by offering different rewards based on how much a person donates.
Global Vegan Crowd Funder (GVCF) – Given that stock-free and veganic agriculture are essentially the same, stock-free agricultural projects could make great use of this crowdfunding platform, provided that the project is in keeping with other vegan principles. Highland Veganics, another one of our case studies, used this platform to help purchase their croft, and to cover the planting costs of their hazel trees. GVCF also hosted another crowdfunding project which successfully raised funds to buyout land in order to use it for veganic farming and rewilding.
Other Funding Sources
A Well Fed World – They offer funds of $500 to individuals and $1,000 to organisations for plant-based farming projects. While this organisation is based in the U.S., it’s grants are offered worldwide.
Esmee Fairbairn Foundation – One of the foundation’s aims is to support projects that produce sustainable and ethical food, so in theory it could be relevant for Scottish agricultural projects. However, their eligibility guidelines are quite strict and so amongst many other criteria (see here) only agricultural businesses which are charitable and have an annual turnover of more than £100,000 for example are eligible for funding.
The Agri-Food Charities Partnership – Their website contains a list of agricultural charities, although relatively few will be useful for farms and crofts in Scotland. The most relevant funding source I have found so far on this website is The Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust. They award grants on the basis of showing leadership in your growing practices, namely using resources efficiently and remaining productive. Although, these grants will only be awarded where the benefits of your work can be measured and quantified, and you can demonstrate how you will share this knowledge with the wider agricultural community.