A farming family have issued a plea to the public to help them save their organic farm.

Ben and Charlotte Hollins are tenant farmers at Fordhall Farm in Market Drayton, Shropshire, but with their contract due to come to an end next year, they fear the estate, which has been cared for by their family since the Second World War, will be sold off.

The pair, aged 21 and 23 respectively, are hoping to attract potential shareholders who can help them buy the 16th century farm.

They have until next July to raise £800,000, or the farm will be sold on the open market.

If their venture is successful, the farm will be run by the Community Farm Land Trust, with the Hollins acting as tenants.

It is hoped the farm will be developed to include an educational facility, promoting local food, healthy living, and sustainable farming techniques.

Shareholders will have a voice in the future conservation of the project, designed to ensure that young farmers like the Hollins and local populations gain permanent and affordable access to farms.

With the average age of farmers rising to 55 and over, the Hollins siblings are creating quite a stir with their determination to succeed and carry on the family legacy.

Charlotte Hollins said: "We have first refusal on the farm if we raise the money by July 1. If we don't the farm will be sold on September 21 next year.

"The potential of this farm is unlimited and the vitality of all those involved gives the project so much energy.

"Fordhall is open to everyone's input and we believe that, by getting local people interested in the project, they will realise the importance of preserving the results of decades of organic farming and the positive impact that has on the community."

Greg Pilley, project leader of CFLT, said: "Many young farmers have the skills and motivation but little capital.

"At the same time, the demand for good, locally grown food is on the increase and people want to re-connect with local farms and build sustainable rural communities.

"Unless Fordhall Community Farm Trust raises £800,000 by July 2006, Ben and Charlotte will lose this 140-acre family organic farm."

Their late father, Arthur Hollins was one of very few farmers who remained organic after the Second World War and he spent his life researching soil fertility.

He also created national recognition for the organic farm when he pioneered yoghurt production in England.

John Hughes, development manager for the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said: "There can be no doubt that the greatest loss of wildlife in the past 50 years has been due to intensive farming.

"Techniques pioneered at Fordhall Farm show that there is another way. Sustainable and productive farming can co-exist with wildlife."

Fordhall Farm rears freerange, organic Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle, sheep and large white and Gloucester old spot pigs. They also have a farm shop - selling Fordhall meats and vegetables - a nature trail, wetlands area, picnic spots and a tea room.

Shares will be on sale from next Wednesday following the Fordhall Farm campaign launch in Market Drayton. n Further details are available by visiting www.fordhall organicfarm.co.uk