This year the Stephen and Gill Bullock Award has been won by a true visionary. The winner is someone who started with an idea and, inspired by their Nuffield experience, has not only built a thriving business based on that vision, but has also taken the first steps towards something much bigger.
When Michael Dart embarked on his Nuffield scholarship he was already running a successful on-farm retail park, Darts Farm, selling produce from his own farm alongside other retailers. But he believed that there was a much more interesting opportunity to create a community hub centered on food, a place where local people could do much more than simply buy things.
Michael’s Nuffield travels took him to Italy, where he met artisan producer and saw firsthand the slow food movement. He also visited the USA, where he saw how local food entrepreneurs had embedded themselves into the local community, offering a place to share food and experiences.
He returned fired up and determined to build a similar community-based venture back home.
Working with his two brothers, Michael has transformed Darts Farm from a retail outlet to a vibrant community space, a place where local people, food producers and artisans come together to eat and learn.
An Artisan School of Food and Drink runs classes in, amongst other things, gin, butchery and marmalade making. Events hosted on the site include a pumpkin festival, a “Celebration of Cider”, an Autumn photography course and cake baking demonstrations.
As well as inviting local people in, Darts farm has also reached out into the wider community. Its food waste is recycled to make nutritious meals for disadvantaged local people. The farm grows sunflowers for a local hospice charity, encouraging local families to pick their own and make a charitable donation. And it hosts an annual family camp where local families to cook and camp together on the farm.
The reinvention of Darts Farm is in itself an impressive achievement. But Michael has his eyes set on a bigger prize. On a patch of land a couple of miles away he has already started to bring to life a more ambitious vision: a complete community with houses, a school, allotments, orchards and a community hub with meeting spaces and a cafe, all linked by footpaths, cycleways and a stream.
Taking inspiration from Poundbury, Prince Charles’ experimental community development on the outskirts of Dorchester, Michael has planned the whole project in a series of phases. Working with a local family builder he has already completed phase 1, with 140 houses and a Church of England primary school.
Michael has come a long way since completing his Nuffield year. But he has remained true to the principles and the vision which prompted him to apply for a Nuffield scholarship, and which his Nuffield travels helped him to clarify - a vision of bringing people together as a community to share food, experiences and friendship.
Please join me in congratulating the winner of the 2018 Bullock Award - Michael Dart.