Fordhall Organic Farm, in Market Drayton, North Shropshire is England’s first community-owned farm and has been organic for over 65 years. The farm is open to the public as an enjoyable and educational resource all year round.

We supported the staff team to help refine and articulate their core values, and explore exactly what they meant in practice. This helped a growing staff and volunteer team to bond more closely with the unique mission of Fordhall Farm and have a common understanding of their role in contributing to this. 

Who was the client and what were their challenges?

Fordhall Organic Farm, in Market Drayton, North Shropshire is England’s first community-owned farm and has been organic for over 65 years. The farm is open to the public as an enjoyable and educational resource all year round.

The Farm was established with a clear sense of there being a shared vision, mission and values. That sense was still shared strongly by many. However, over time they have grown in size and taken on more staff and they felt that now was a good time to reaffirm these in order to:

  • ensure the unique Fordhall Farm ‘character’ was retained
  • more effectively use the values to drive strategy and behaviour
  • more effectively use values to communicate with and engage with key stakeholders

How did we help?

Fordhall Farm was carrying out an annual strategy review and as part of this process we reviewed its values across the organisation and how they related to its vision and mission. Getting these values right, and working through how to embed them firmly in the day to day operations and decisions that all staff, volunteers and board make has started to enable greater consistency in service, stronger working relationships, and greater clarity in how the farm communicates its unique vision, mission and character. An important part of this was to ensure that the responsibility for delivering the mission would be shared right across the organisation, and not just held with the board and leadership team.

This work was carried out over a period of four months during which time we interviewed members of the staff team and members of the board, worked closely with the farm’s strategy consultant, facilitated an away day and developed a realistic plan for approval by the board and staff.

What impact has this had?

The work on values is now being embedded throughout the organisation, for example within the interview process, marketing, induction processes and events. They are finding that staff feel part of a more cohesive organisation and understand how they all fit together.

The values are understood and being expressed by all members of staff and not just the senior leadership team. The board will include a nominated rep who will make sure that the values stay central to board discussions.

Whilst the Farm’s relationship with volunteers was already strong, having a clearer understanding of the values has strengthened this very special bond with its volunteers. Staff have received a training session on values and how to pass them on to any new staff, ensuring that the spirit of the values underpins everything achieved at the farm now, and in the future.

“Prior to the work with Practical Governance, everyone wanted to feel more connected and whilst we have team meetings and away days they couldn’t always feel the links internally because all of our projects are very different. The process helped everyone to feel like they are critical cogs in the bigger wheel, so it’s much clearer to people not just what they should be doing but why they are doing it.

It’s been valuable to have someone external work with us on this, because they have time to do it thoroughly and take an objective view.   It was really lovely reading the values to our volunteers, they all said yes, this is what Fordhall is to me. That’s been really good and has strengthened our bond.”

Charlotte Hollins, Custodian, Fordhall Farm

What did we learn:

Following our away day with Fordhall Organic Farm, we arranged a session with the farm’s strategy consultant to follow up on the actions and ensure they were realistic and taken forward quickly. This has proved really important in ensuring the work landed – even after a really positive away day it can be easy to lose momentum once people get back to work. This project has also reaffirmed our belief in the power of values when you properly work through what they mean for people day to day, rather than just words on a page. 

How long did it take?

The work was carried out over a period of 4 months and took a total of 4 days to complete. The work was overseen by Bob Thust & Becky Claydon.