Christmas…, it does make you reflect on the year(s) gone by. I started Rural Care in December 2008 with one Co- Farmer and one shed. Precisely eight years later, Rural Care has spread over 2 sites: Church Farm, Ardeley and Aldenham Country Park, Elstree. Each week we support more than 70 Co- Farmers, including 1:1’s, and also five schools and pupils, two colleges and students. We run an accredited animal care course and bespoke timetables through North Herts College. We employ 20 staff of whom nine are full time.
We are enabling people with learning disabilities to work on a farm, learn new skills and make friends but we are doing this on a real working farm and country park. So many therapeutic places provide similar opportunities but are based on sites for the sole purpose of therapy but Rural Care doesn’t. We are based on a farm and country park open to the public. We have a responsibility to the general public and towards our animals and livestock welfare and there is no room for error in egg /food production. The products we produce and grow have to be top quality.
At Church Farm we are responsible for the 150 laying hens, egg production and sorting and a flock of 200 sheep as well as four goats, runner ducks, guinea pigs and rabbits.
This year Church Farm took over the running of Aldenham Country Park and farm. In six months so much has improved dramatically, thanks to a very dedicated team and all the hard work from the Co- Farmers.
More recently Aldenham Country Park joined Church Farm in its not-for-profit status as a Community Interest Company (CIC), which means the farm and park are run for the benefit of the community.
At both sites enormous changes have happened in the last year. At Church Farm we have built our own accessible toilet for exclusive use by Rural Care and a kitchen, and are developing a whole new area. Each site has a large new building and has improved the allotments. The craft enterprise started on both sites and is producing crafts for sale in the farm shops.
I am so proud of what Rural Care has achieved, not only in the last 8 years but on a daily basis, practically and in human terms. I have observed the importance of people being given responsibility, the nurturing side in everyone to look after animals, the changes in people’s confidence and self-esteem, the satisfaction of a job well done and the pride of being part of a good team and Rural Care is a good team!
There are hundreds of stories to tell and so many successes as Rural Care and Care Farming seems to work for so many people and has so much to offer.
And 2017? More improvements to the Rural Care facilities, even more variety to the activities we offer and starting a service in the Sensory facilities for adults with profound and multiple disabilities. Let’s face it! We will never be bored!
—Ann De Bock