15 Minutes… Heathfield Farm: A Caring Farm with Real Heart

Dec 22, 2023 | Featured Articles, Interviews

15 Minutes… Heathfield Farm: A Caring Farm with Real Heart

Dec 22, 2023 | Featured Articles, Interviews

There is an incredible project underway locally, providing rewarding activities for adults with learning disabilities and autism.

Heathfield Farm, an initiative of the ‘Devon Link-Up’ charity, was set up in 2019 following a suggestion from its users. The farm, situated on National Trust land, forms part of the broader Killerton estate.

“Here at the farm, we aim to provide meaningful and purposeful activities which include growing vegetables, basic woodwork, site maintenance, arts, craft and cookery”, says Heathfield’s general manager Matt Staite.

He continued to say: “Everyone who comes to the farm benefits from the mental and physical wellbeing gained from socialising and spending time outdoors. We use a person-centred approach with emphasis placed on teaching life and work skills, encouraging independence and building people’s confidence”.

According to NHS statistics, between 2021 and 2022 only 7% of people in Devon with a learning disability were in paid employment. This contributed to many having poorer physical and mental health than people without a learning disability. As result of attending the farm, some people have felt ready to move into volunteering opportunities or paid employment.

“I’ve learned lots of new skills and feel like I’ve become more confident and I’m now a volunteer which is really exciting.” Libby, farm volunteer.

During a recent visit it was clear just what an important role the farm plays in supporting its attendees. Whether they were busy preparing the raised beds, helping with woodwork or craft projects in the barn, socialising around the tables outside the kitchen or tending to the wildlife pond or sorting the fire pit for a lunchtime gathering – there’s something to get stuck into here for anyone with a love of the outdoors.

“People are really friendly and really nice and very understanding when I’m going through troubles. I feel really comfortable here”, shared Paul, one of the farms attendees.

Everything at the farm is grown using organic principles. They cook with the fresh produce grown on site and eat together every day. Eating together gives people the chance to try new food, learn about healthy eating, share, and see the result of their hard work.

The farm sells handmade items such as bird boxes, insect hotels, veg and apple juice from their ‘Veg Shed’. The staff at Heathfield hope that more people become aware of the farm and the vital service it provides.

Naomi, one of the farm volunteers, says: “I absolutely love helping here. It’s such a wonderfully unique place to spend time. The atmosphere is always positive, relaxed and welcoming. Clients, staff and volunteers all mix together like one big, happy family. Everyone cares about each other, it’s such a fun place to be and every day is different!”

Heathfield Farm welcomes volunteers with a caring nature who have an interest in any of the activities they offer, or who have expertise in other areas that could support the charity.

The farms new website is currently under construction. If you’d like to follow their activities, you can find them on Facebook or Instagram @heathfieldfarmdevon.
If you’d like to help, please contact Matt Staite directly at mstaite@heathfieldfarm.org or by calling 07733 072326.

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