Inspirational farm where care grows

Comic Relief funded project in Suffolk -  Poppies Care Farm, just outside Ipswich, which provides a wealth of practical and social activities for adults with learning difficulties.
Comic Relief funded project in Suffolk - Poppies Care Farm, just outside Ipswich, which provides a wealth of practical and social activities for adults with learning difficulties.
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Well, a week goes quickly around these parts. And it is highly likely that you’ll know someone who this time last week was Red Nose Day fundraising or donating money to Comic Relief.

If so, please do spread the news that if they’re now done and dusted with their big foamy red nose, it can now be recycled at Sainsbury’s. Apparently they get turned into carpet underlay.

This year for Red Nose Day, I had the opportunity to visit a Comic Relief-funded project in Suffolk – Poppies Care Farm, just outside Ipswich, which provides a wealth of practical and social activities for adults with learning difficulties.

I was there to meet Lee Smith, a former engineer and now director of the farm. 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 Suffolk’s social enterprise Growing Places. They also learn about animal care, including guinea pigs, donkeys, chickens, goats and alpacas. There are even beehives 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’ wellbeing.

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, and an unusual project 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 duty – and I could easily see why – is looking after the alpacas. Even after just a few minutes in the company of four of these relaxing creatures you feel an instant 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 project’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 poppies carefarm.co.uk.

At the time of writing, this year’s Red Nose Day appeal has reached £73 million, which will now be put to work on projects across the UK and tackling poverty overseas. If you are connected to a local project, it ,too, could be eligible for a Comic Relief grant. Find out more details and how to apply at www.comicrelief.com/grants .