It’s that time again – the season of Red Nose antics for Comic Relief – when the nation comes together to raise money for good causes. And as a member of the Team Honk blogging network, Karen had the pleasure of visiting a Comic Relief funded project in Suffolk to find out how their money is put to good use. Over to KC.
As my taxi bumped along the dusty track across the heath, behind me the suburbs of Ipswich faded into the distance and ahead emerged my first glimpse of Poppies Care Farm. The wind turbines, offering the first clue that we were near.
I was there to meet Lee Smith, a former engineer and now director of the farm that provides a wealth of practical and social activities for adults with learning difficulties. Accompanying Lee were two of the farm’s clients – Care Farmers – Jamie and Jacob, who treated me to a tour of their fabulous facilities.
The charity’s goals include helping the Care Farmers to learn about food production and preparation as well as social interaction and learning new skills. Activities are tailored to individual needs and the Care Farmers have the chance to learn about growing a range of 40 different food crops, much of which is sold through another local project called Growing Places. They also learn about animal care, including guinea pigs, donkeys, chickens, goats and alpacas. There are even bee-hives from which they help to harvest honey. In total, there are 17 clients who attend at different times through the week.
It was easy to see the passion for the farm. Not just from Lee but from the farm’s clients too. Watching the goats being fed leftover stalks (from the harvested sprouting broccoli) highlighted the fantastic relationship that the Care Farmers have with the animals. As Lee said, “Animals don’t recognise disability” and this is such an important aspect to how Poppies Care Farm supports their clients’ well-being.
Other farmyard duties include milking the goats, some of which is made into Halloumi cheese onsite, and very soon the Care Farmers will learn how to care for some youngsters as a couple of the goats are on course to give birth over the next few months.
Another aspect of farm management is building things – including shelters and homes for the animals. Here’s one of the team’s favourite projects. Don’t be fooled, it’s not a chicken coop, but in fact the best guinea pig house I have ever seen.
Another work in progress, tucked away in the barn in, is an old broken piano that’s being upcycled into a bottle rack.
Other activities that the community of Care Farmers are able to engage in include wildlife conservation, foraging and gathering wild food as well as nature walks, art and photography.
A particular favourite – and I could easily see why – is looking after the alpacas. Even after just a few minutes in the company of Polo, Black Jack, Rolo and Monsoon, you feel a sense of calm. And what wonderful animals to have around. Not only is their manure used for digging into the land to nourish the crops but their wool has provided valuable insulation for the farm’s Yellow Barn, which is the farm’s indoor hub.
Poppies Care Farm is a fantastic example of how resources can be used imaginatively, providing an invaluable experience to improve the lives of others. It was a real pleasure to visit and to meet all the Care Farmers who were there that day. The farm is a working care service so isn’t open to the general public. However, more information about its facilities can be found at poppiescarefarm.co.uk.
Meanwhile, you’ll probably know someone who is fund-raising for Red Nose Day. Do spread the news that red noses can be recycled at Sainsbury’s. Apparently they get turned into carpet underlay. And if you’d like to find out more about Comic Relief grants, hop over to www.comicrelief.com/grants.