East Anglian care farm branches out with 900-tree fruit orchard project
- Credit: Archant
East Anglian care farmers are transforming an arable field into a 900-tree orchard and wildlife oasis as part of a diversification project.
Clinks Care Farm, at Toft Monks, near Beccles, was given permission by its landlord, Norfolk County Council, to convert a 15-acre arable field into agro-forestry.
Staff, volunteers and care farm clients have been busy planting 450 apple trees and a further mix of pears, plumbs, apricots, hazels and walnuts with the support of the Woodland Trust and Natural England.
Between the rows of trees, it will create a traditional hay-making meadow for grazing and haymaking.
'To me, it brings the land more into life with more human and nature activity,' said Doeke Dobma, who set up the farm-based social enterprise in 2010 with wife Iris van Zon. 'We could have gone for native trees, but the care farm perspective is to look a little further.'
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Barbara Cameron, a youth worker at MTM Youth Services in Botesdale, who was at the planting with a group of youngsters, said it helped young people to understand how food was produced.
'They see the circle of life,' she said. 'They just get stuck in - they don't have to be asked to work.'
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The mixed farm, which includes pigs and other livestocks and a vegetable enterprise, provides therapeutic activities for a wide range of clients, including a highly-praised Farming on Prescription scheme which brings in patients from the NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, the long-term unemployed and people with disabilities. It also hosts school groups.
'It fits well with the mixed farm concept and care farm as it provides more therapeutic opportunities and land based skills for disadvantaged people,' said Doeke. 'It will be intensively looked after including introducing bees pollinating the fruit trees and enjoying the nectar wildflowers which we will drill between the rows.'
The care farm welcomes around 50 clients on a weekly basis and is a county farm, operating on a farm tenancy basis. Eventually, Doeke hopes that they will also be able to grow vegetables between the rows of trees. Profits from its social enterprise activities are ploughed back into the care farm.