Tending loving care at Clinks Care Farm

'People nowadays want local food that hasn’t travelled across continents,' says Iris von Zon, manage

'People nowadays want local food that hasn’t travelled across continents,' says Iris von Zon, manager at Clinks Care Farm, which has its own farm stall Picture: Clinks Care Farm - Credit: Archant

Enjoy sustainably grown produce and pick your own flowers at Clinks Care Farm, all while supporting the fantastic therapeutic services they provide for the community.

Clinks Care Farm has opened their flower garden to the public, where you can spend a sunny afternoon

Clinks Care Farm has opened their flower garden to the public, where you can spend a sunny afternoon picking your own bouquet Picture: Janet Dean - Credit: Archant

One unexpected outcome of the coronavirus lockdown was that people started to buy local once again. As global supply chains broke down and supermarket shelves were left ransacked, people started flocking to their closest butchers and fishmongers.

Iris van Zon, manager at Clinks Care Farm, noticed the difference in demand at the farm stall. “We suddenly became inundated with queues,” she says. “But it was so lovely to see people appreciating local produce!”

Located at Toft Monks on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk, Clinks Care Farm is a non-profit social enterprise run by Iris and her husband. It operates both as a traditional farming business with a produce stall and food deliveries, and also as a therapeutic space, offering activities to help people with issues such as mental health, learning difficulties, brain injuries and dementia.

“We’re a day-service provider for both Norfolk and Suffolk county councils and we have placements for people to participate in farming activities, such as animal husbandry and picking produce,” Iris explains. “The natural space of the farm environment enables people to achieve independence and health goals while they work towards recovery.”

The care farm also hosts a birdwatching group once a month and has recently opened a flower garden to the general public, offering a fantastic summertime activity for the whole family.

“The flower garden has been really popular since it opened a couple of weeks ago,” Iris says. “People are desperate to do things outdoors.”

During a 45-minute slot, visitors can make beautiful bouquets with delphiniums, sweet Williams, cornflowers, dahlias and eucalyptus, to name a few – with reduced prices for the kids, who will also appreciate the orchard and goat pen. You’ll receive a pair of secateurs, a bucket and a bag to fill to your heart’s desire!

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“Creating your own bouquet involves creativity, so it is a really satisfying activity,” Iris says. “The feedback we’ve had from people has been great. People really appreciate spending some time outdoors again and doing something that is lovely and relaxing – picking flowers among the birdsong and butterflies.”

The flower garden is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11am-2.30pm and appointments can be booked online. After flower picking, visitors can explore the farm shop with its fresh milk, vegetables, eggs, cheese and meat.

“We like to offer something a bit different and at the moment we’re selling agretti, which is like samphire but not as salty,” Iris says. “They go crazy for it in Italy. It is absolutely delicious and almost impossible to find in supermarkets.

“We have a gorgeous brie from Fen Farm Dairy, near Bungay. We also sell pork, lamb, and occasionally mutton, goat and venison.”

Everything on offer at Clinks Care Farm is sustainably grown.

“People nowadays want local food that hasn’t travelled for miles and across continents in order to get here. Here they get it direct from the farm – it’s all local.”

The farm also offers a food box delivery service for residents in surrounding towns and villages including Loddon, Beccles and Bungay.

Usually, fundraising events such as a cèilidh and the annual Blues at the Farm music festival would take place during the summer. However, these events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Instead, a JustGiving page has been set up where people can donate as various challenges are completed, including a cycling challenge using Turbo Trainers and cutting grass on eight playgrounds in one day. Money raised will go towards a kitchen extension so that volunteers and farm helpers can socially distance safely.

“At the moment we’re all sitting outdoors or in a big barn so it is safe, but come October we might not want to do that!” Iris says. “After the corona outbreak, the response from the local community to come help us was amazing. Lots of people that were furloughed offered their time to help with picking produce and feeding animals on the farm.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, so if you want to experience the outdoors one day a week, come and get involved. There’s plenty to do during the summertime!”

For more information visit www.clinkscarefarm.org.uk