Lowestoft charity to set up farm

A LOWESTOFT charity is spreading its roots – by setting up its own farm.

Aid and Assist has leased five -and-a-half acres of land off Stirrups Lane, Corton, which will be cultivated by a group of 16 people with learning difficulties and disabilities.

In the first part of the scheme, the volunteers will start growing tomatoes after the charity secured a �5,000 grant from the Suffolk Foundation buy polytunnels and a cabin.

In the longer term, it is hoped the land will be farmed by the volunteers and people with problems, such as disabilities or depression, who will be given the chance to grow a wide range of vegetables and look after animals to help build up their confidence and skills.

The farm will also support Aid and Assist as it will sell its produce to fund the charity's work.

Set up in 1983, Aid and Assist, based in High Street, provides a day care service, a furniture re-use scheme and a service maintaining public and private properties. However the farm, which has yet to be named, is the first time the charity has directly applied for funding after receiving the support of Claire Taylor-Crisp, a community development worker based at the Kirkley Centre.

Aid and Assist chairman Roger Bellham said he was delighted to receive the �5,000 cheque to get the farm up and running this year. He said: 'I think it is going to put Aid and Assist right on the top notch with other charities.

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'It is something extremely exciting to be involved in. Our volunteers have just been in these four walls when they are with us and now they have the chance to work outside on a farm and grow tomatoes and other things. They will learn a lot from it, I am sure of that.'

The work of the Aid and Assist care farm, which is on a six-year lease, is similar to in ethos to the 'farming on prescription' project at Clinks Care Farm in Toft Monks which helps people with mental health issues.

Hanif Jaffer, vice-chairman of Aid and Assist who secured the grant, said: 'It is exciting to get this �5,000. I am delighted we got it as it means we can help people. I am very passionate about helping people.'

Mr Jaffer and Mr Bellham said they were grateful to Mrs Taylor-Crisp and Sue Wright, grants officer at the Suffolk Foundation, for their support and advice.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous was also at the cheque presentation event and he told the gathering of Aid and Assist staff, trustees, volunteers and people they were at the 'forefront' of the care farm ethos and that gaining the �5,000 grant was a 'testament to the team's hard work'.

As well as the farm, the charity has set up a woodwork shop and, in another boost, prime minister David Cameron has donated a bottle of Houses of Parliament wine to be auctioned to raise funds for it.

Aid and Assist is looking for volunteers to help run its woodwork shop and is looking for a tractor to use on its farm.

Anyone who can help or who is interested in the work of Aid and Assist can contact it by calling in to 54, High Street, Lowestoft, ringing 01502 586925 or emailing aid_assist@btconnect.com

To find out more, visit www.onesuffolk.co.uk/AidandAssistProject

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