A visit to Nethercott Farm
In 2015 we started a charitable giving programme: our customers are invited to add £1 in checkout for a charity, and for every pound they donate, we add another. We supported The Helen Foundation, are currently raising money for Shelter, and a while back we handed a cheque for £1064 to Tessa Stone, who runs the inspirational charity Farms For City Children.
Tessa and I thought it would be great for me to visit Nethercott Farm in north Devon - it's one of three farms they run, and the original home of the charity which was founded by writer Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare in 1974. It was a great trip - fascinating to find out more about what they do, and I was very struck by the tremendous enthusiasm, commitment and sense of mission shown by Nethercott's manager, Catherine, and Tessa herself. Catherine explained how amazed they are by the house (which I expect many of them see as Hogwarts!), and the open spaces around it. It's real freedom for the 30-ish groups of 7-10 yr old children who come to stay every week. After all, for many, their lives are very constrained and contained - so Nethercott's fields and gardens are a total revelation - thrilling was Catherine's word, and you can see it: everything about this place and what happens there is just magically different.
Interestingly, the charity isn't so much finding 'activities' for the children as allocating them useful jobs - real jobs which just have to be done on a farm. Feeding stock (they have pigs, chickens, sheep, cows), mucking out, planting and harvesting vegetables, picking fruit. It's work, that's the thing - and work they find the children readily respond to and enjoy. Food preparation and cooking is a part of it too. When I was there some fantastic plaited loaves were being baked and by the time I left they were on the long refectory tables ready for tea - and this amazing bread was bread they'd made themselves!
Another thing Catherine explained was that the while diet at Nethercott - 'proper' food cooked from fresh ingredients, fruit, vegetables - presented a bit of a challenge to some children on arrival, they find that over the course of week those problems tend to fall away ... so they seem to have cracked the age-old problem how to get kids eating vegetables. Must be something in the north Devon air!