It took a conversation with a close friend recently to bring to our attention the need for this blog post. We talk about Argal Home Farm all the time. We tag the farm in social posts, talk about our friends here, walls built and buildings knocked down, but what does it all mean? They didn't have a clue.
Well, to us it means a great deal and I'm sure the feeling is mutual amongst our colleagues, neighbors, and friends. James Smith is our landlord and the man with the vision for what the farm can be. We decided to put him on the spot to find out how it all started and what's he's hoping to achieve.
For those that don't know what is Argal Home and who's based there?
Argal home farm is a Cornish farmstead just outside of Falmouth, we're building a creative, business community - where people can work in a rural location.
I suppose the base idea is getting a group of like-minded people to work together in a collaborative way, in a nice location in the countryside. Taking advantage of the fact it's farm to produce food and try to use the land in a productive way.
So far in terms of businesses my own company "Jame Smith Designs" is based here, alongside Yallah Coffee, Nina Constable Media, and Francli Craftwear.
There are also residents who live on the farm, which creates a live / work mix that really enriches what we've got. Whilst it's great having specifically like-minded business heads working on projects together, actually it's far more interesting when you have the likes of a Marine Biologist, a Nurse and a Special Needs and Disabilities specialist living on the farm (which they currently do). They bring a wealth of knowledge and fresh perspectives which, I think can be lost in large corporate focused work environment.
Where did the idea to create this space come from? why did you take on the challenge of building it?
I grew up in the countryside and very much feel at home in it. It was also very evident to me whilst studying and working in cities like London how powerful a tool it can be. Space, fresh air and the beauty of the natural environment are really quite profound.
Personally, I wanted to be able to work in the countryside and be in an enviroment that was stimulating, without losing the critical feedback and collaboration you get in busy spaces. To be in a nice rural location but not be cut off. For purposes of quality and fun but also happiness too - fun and social.... all of those things.
You've been on the farm for almost 3 years now, what's happened so far?
I've sent a lot of emails. (haha)
We've done an enormous amount of research and planning related to new builds and renovations. Some of this has been applications and license based stuff but also spending time understanding the needs of the people going into the spaces.
Admittedly this aspect of the project has taken longer than I hoped but a lot has happened nonetheless. We've focused on things which are important in the development of the broader farm, the building of a kitchen garden, planting a new orchard, planting of trees around the farm (around 1,400 so far) and building a large greenhouse.
This year we've also completed some of the first substantial physical elements of the project. There is now a biomass wood chip system which provides heating for all of the farm buildings. We've installed solar panels on 2 of the residential cottages as well as new infrastructure to support the businesses here, for example, a track and turning point for large trucks to deliver goods. These are long term projects that will be useful for everyone on the farm.
Also and perhaps most importantly, from day one we've had people living and working here, which proves there is a demand for something like this. The concept works. If you look at it in a broader sense that's the biggest thing really.
There are building works about to start - can you tell us what's happening?
There are 2 elements to it. There is the conversion of a traditional stone agricultural barns into 3 units. 1 of which will be a group space for classes, exhibitions, meetings, dinners, events.... you name it. This will be available for people on the farm to use but also anyone looking for a good space to host events.
Then there will be 2 other spaces within the same building, available for businesses to rent. The aim is to create nice, light, warm spaces for people to work in. This was one of the key elements that drove the project from the start. I perceived there to be a lack of good quality, healthy places for young businesses or creatives to work. There are plenty of leaky barns and warehouses around, but If you're spending 10-12 hours a day in these buildings it's not a healthy environment to be, either for your health or creativity.
Adjacent to that barn will be a new build which will become my studio. This will be a glulam frame, timber clad contemporary workspace for prototyping, manufacturing, and batch producing products. I'm hoping to have another maker sharing some of the space from me, who will also be operating the machinery for bigger projects.
Aside from the business side of things, there seems to be an emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism. Is that something you've made a conscious decision on, or a philosophy that applies to everyone on the farm?
Definitely. The aim is to mitigate our presence on the environment, reducing our carbon footprint and any emissions/pollution relating to our activities here. I believe this is very important, especially as businesses grow.
When you build new buildings it's a great opportunity to make them more efficient and lower the amount of energy they require, which is normally a huge amount. That's very much built into the fabric of the design thinking for all the buildings.
I also intend to use the land in such a way that is the best balance between productivity and the effects on the environment and surrounding eco-systems. Forest gardening is a good example of this and we've tried to incorporate this into the veg garden and orchard on the farm.
What's your vision for Argal in 10 years time?
I hope to have a full house of people working here, with some key residents who are here for the medium to long term, as well as a mix of people who come through, whether they're doing residencies or just short periods of work. I hope it'll be a busy, creative environment with a decent amount of events that bring in people from the local community, and indeed the wider creative community. I'd like it to become a bit of a destination in that respect. In terms of the farm, I'd like to think we'll be producing a decent amount of food, with some livestock and generally living off the land as much as we can.