In April, we will be adding three initials to the end of our name. Becoming a C.I.C or Community Interest Company is an important milestone for Orchard Origins. Since we launched two years ago with a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme, it has been our goal to become a social enterprise. So what does it mean?
In many ways very little will change. The focus of our activities will continue to be environmental and social – in fact, this is a prerequisite of being a Community Interest Company. As a C.I.C., all our assets and any profits we make have to benefit the social and environmental aims of the company rather than its private shareholders which in our case is the Herefordshire Nature Trust.
We will still be working in the orchards every Friday with our volunteers; making and selling apple juice, cider, chutneys and jams; and training people in traditional orchard management skills. The main difference is that, as a limited company, we can trade as a business. This means we can be more self-sufficient and less reliant on outside funding in future.
We have some ambitious plans for Orchard Origins, but we intend to grow by doing what we do best: managing orchards and making products from the fruit, improving biodiversity and helping people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Our volunteers will continue to be at the heart of what we do. For the last couple of years, we have been working closely with Herefordshire Mind training some of their clients in traditional orchard managements skills. We will be building on this important relationship, but also reaching out to other groups who could benefit from some orchard therapy. In future, we hope to be working with a whole range of community groups including ex offenders and returning armed forces’ veterans.
We will also be investing in new equipment including some bigger apple presses and pasteurisers so that we can process more of our own apples. This should help reduce our costs and increase our profitability. It will also mean that we can take our smaller presses into the orchards so that we can host community apple juicing events.
Further down the road we hope to lease our own premises so that we will have a base to work from where we can store our fruit and house a cider press.
We are making some adjustments to the way we work with private orchard owners. We currently operate on a work for fruit basis. We help manage the orchard in return for a percentage of the harvest. However, this formula doesn’t work for everyone. We are often contacted by orchard owners who would prefer to pay for our time and expertise and keep their fruit. So in future, we will be offering both services.
Becoming a Community Interest Company is a big move, but it should guarantee an exciting future for Orchard Origins.
If you are interested in joining us as a volunteer, or you are involved in a community group that might be interested in working in the orchards with us, or you are a private orchard owner and would like more details on the services we can provide please get in contact.