New biodynamic training centre launched at Huxhams Cross Farm

Launch of eco-build centre at Huxhams Cross Farm

The Apricot Centre CIC launched its sustainable farm training and wellbeing centre at Demeter-certified Huxhams Cross Farm in Dartington, Devon.

Biodynamic Land Trust AGM

The launch was preceded by the Biodynamic Land Trust Annual General Meeting in the new eco-build Apricot Centre. Biodynamic Land Trust Director, Gabriel Kaye, presented a tree to the Apricot Centre CIC team.

Farm walk Apricot Centre

After a farm walk across 34-acre Huxhams Cross Farm, Biodynamic Land Trust shareholders and local supporters joined the evening launch and party.  (The Trust bought the land as a 999-year lease from Dartington Hall Trust, and holds it in trust for Biodynamic Land Trust community shareholders who own the land).

The new Centre will offer fresh biodynamic produce for sale including wheat and eggs (see image above), vocational training in biodynamic farming and permaculture design, farm-to-fork cookery workshops, and farm produce processing.  Huxhams Cross Farm recently achieved Demeter (biodynamic) certification.

As well as healing the soil, the Centre offers Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for children and young people, with nature acting as a co-therapist.

Biodynamic Land Trust co-founder, Martin Large, cut the launch ribbon and thanked the Apricot Centre CIC directors,

The Apricot Centre CIC team has over 20 years’ experience of permaculture methods and biodynamic farming, as well as working therapeutically with families. By offering mental health services on a farm, clients benefit from the proven benefits of being in nature.

Huxhams Cross Farm is the third farm that Marina O’Connell, has started from scratch. She began School Farm at Dartington Estate in the 1990s, followed by a farm with wellbeing services in Essex.

Marina O’Connell said: “The soil at Huxhams Cross Farm is full of worms now and the birds have food. Once wildlife has a place to live, it arrives on the farm and ecology kicks in. When we had an attack of white cabbage caterpillars in the summer, the wasps ate the pests – that’s functional biodiversity. We need to create resilient, low-carbon farms that produce a lot of food and support wildlife. But there is no magic pot of money, so farms have to be financially viable too – that’s where our new Centre comes in.”

Martin Large also thanked Terra Perma, the Totnes-based natural building company which has adopted the the Centre as its Charity of the Year. Other sponsors include Inter-Line Building Supplies, United Roofing, Thermafleece, Zav Bowden, and River Electrics. The Centre received funding from LEADER, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and South Devon Coastal Local Action Group because it will boost the rural economy with vocational training and increased work opportunities.

Bob Mehew at Huxhams Cross Farm veg stall

Biodynamic Land Trust Director, Gabriel Kaye, said: “The Apricot Centre fulfills our vision of connecting land and people, delivers the Government’s ‘public goods’, and establishes Huxhams Cross Farm as a beacon of sustainability.”

Gabriel added, “The land was bare when the Apricot Centre CIC team started farming in late-2015. Due to regenerative agriculture, the soil is regaining fertility and providing fresh local food. With to the new centre now completed, the farm fulfills the Trust’s mission to connect communities to land, support land-based education, create rural jobs and improve countryside economies, and provide fresh and healthy food to locals.”

Apricot Centre CIC at Totnes Market
Apricot Centre CIC at Totnes Market

The farm runs a weekly stall at Totnes Market and supplies local restaurants and retailers. The Apricot Centre CIC farmers along with farm apprentices and volunteers, have planted 4,000 fruit trees, and produce biodynamic eggs and vegetables for over 50 veg bags. Using permaculture methods, the farm’s water and energy use is designed for maximum sustainability.

By planting trees along the contours of the hill, the farm will help reduce flooding in the low-lying village of Week. Coppicing will also provide wood for heating the new Centre. The farm has also sown five acres of heritage Population Wheat and harvested its second crop. Milled into flour with Grown in Totnes, it is probably the first time flour has been produced in Dartington since the 1940s.

Upcoming training courses at the Apricot Centre include Introduction to Biodynamic Farming and Growing with Marina O’Connell Saturday 16th March – Sunday 17th March and Saturday 27th April – Sunday 28th April 2019.

Thanks for images including from Heather Rainbow and Beccy Strong.

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