A Community Farm Project for Better Mental Health
How would you respond, if your day to day work brought you regularly in contact with people at the farthest ebb of their mental health, maybe even on the precipice of suicide?
Andy, in his work at a local landmark, deals regularly with emotionally distressed individuals.
His response – the creation of EcoSerenity Project CIC – is designed to meet the hard realities that he comes into contact with, in a way that is as kind, creative and down-to-earth as I can imagine.
Last year, Andy set up – in his spare time, and on a voluntary basis – EcoSerenity CIC, which includes Barton Community Farm and woodland.
Visitors and volunteers are welcome to relax and unwind in the peaceful woodland area, or spend time looking after animals, growing food or socialising with other people in the small cafe.
The project has come a long way in a year, from a completely overgrown site to a small farm that is clearly taking shape.
So far, there are:
- four pigs, a flock of chickens and a clutch of bantam chicks;
- a large vegetable garden
- a large area recently cleared and soon to become a pond to accommodate ducks with more foraging space for the pigs;
- a woodland walk, pathed with neat dead-hedges, leading to a pleasant, shady chill-out space;
- a low-cost cafe stocked through FareShare, complete with ice-cream counter, with adjoining workshop space;
- a small but smart visitor welcome building.
A farmer for the day
“We recognised the local need for affordable food, including cake and treat food,” Andy explains to me, but his real vision is for families to become “farmers for the day”.
“People get to see the origins of their food, so often hidden from us.
Parents need to take time away from the usual stresses of family life – here they can spend time together, outdoors, with the animals, learning new skills together.
They get to tend the veg, feed the pigs and collect the eggs.
They’ll have the food parcel at the end of the day, but more importantly, the shared bonding time.”Andy Douce, founder of EcoSerenity CIC
Caring for the Environment
There is also attention given to environmental aspects – for example, the shop encourages people to use less plastic by selling pop in glass bottles that can be returned. Sweets and cakes are sold in cardboard boxes.
Plans are also afoot for a refill shop, in collaboration with Slow Circular Earth, where people can bring their own containers to fill with food and cleaning products, further reducing the need for disposable plastics and encouraging people to be more thoughtful and less wasteful of packaging.
They are also growing Christmas trees, so that – instead of buying a 10 year old tree and throwing it away after a decorated few weeks at Christmas – people can hire their tree, and the project will collect it after Christmas, and return it to the ground within a special container, until next year.
The journey so far
How has so much been achieved in just one year? As is so often the case, there are many things that have contributed to the development of the project:
The land is leased by a supportive landowner, who just “got” Andy’s vision, and loved the sound of the project.
Invaluable practical advice and an excellent sounding board is available from two local farmers.
There have been generous donations from local businesses, FareShare, and local residents via an online raffle and other fundraising.
There are already 15 regular volunteers who help out.
And it is clear that as the founder, Andy, has personally given a huge amount to the project in terms of time, resources, dedication and imagination.
Everyone is welcome to come to relax and/or get involved, whether that is helping run the cafe and shop, tending the gardens or looking after the animals.
If you would like to offer your support, there are a couple of ways that would really help to drive this project forwards:
- Volunteers with practical skills, whether that’s business or admin, or electrical, plumbing, or construction
- Donations – which would, for example, enable them to hire a digger to dig a pond or install fences professionally
- Keep in touch and share the journey – facebook.com/ecoserenityproject
Animal husbandry, sustainability and positive mental health project in Barton on Humber – Check out EcoSerenity Project CICTweet