The 34-acre farm near Totnes established on land secured by the Biodynamic Land Trust in September 2015, is now fully operational. Designed and run by the Apricot Centre applying biodynamic and permaculture principles, the farm achieved full biodynamic status in 2018.
There are now ten acres of field vegetables, six polytunnels of fruit and vegetables, and five acres of YQ wheat. The other arable field is resting, down to clovers, grazed by 150 hens that are laying fine eggs. In addition, the two Shetland cows Damson and Daffodil are in the Long Meadow which is now in good health with over 200 orchids counted in spring 2019. The other two fields are planted with over 300 fruit trees and another 400 trees are to go in this winter. The Centre has also taken on three new apprentices who are currently learning the joys of wet weather on the farm! All three have been initiated in the care of chickens with 75 new chickens joining the farm just before Christmas. This means egg production is thriving even in the winter months with shorter daylight hours.
The farm, led by Marina and Mark O’Connell and Bob Mehew, has championed health and wellbeing from the outset, integrating therapy for children and families.
Landscaped into the hillside, their beautiful eco-building training centre is bedding in, in addition to the lovely pod next door. Correspondingly, referrals for therapy and mentoring are on the rise, as people see how this fits into the farm landscape. The Apricot Centre have also built a five-metre oak framed all weather shelter in the woodlands which are being renovated. Fences are coming out as is the laurel. This work is revealing beautiful ancient coppice hazels, and huge oaks and some unusual Devon banks. These banks probably have a story and more research will be carried out.
The centre will start taking social prescribing in this area. Rachel Phillips is developing an area of Social Forestry. The project was awarded £8,650 from Awards for All to run workshops in the woodlands for children and families to benefit their wellbeing and the woodland. The farm is looking forward to running this after Easter with families carrying out authentic woodland management activities such as tree planting, coppicing and making log piles. The families will also take part in rural crafts such as natural paint making and woodland carving.
The farm has piloted three core training courses: a four-day Introduction to Biodynamic Farming and Gardening; a two-day course on Agroforestry; and a 12-day Permaculture Design Course. All of these went extremely well, and they will run them again in 2020.
The centre are now developing the next part of the business plan for the farm, a food processing micro enterprise. As a result, the apprentices have also been making juices, chutneys, cordials and preserves with excess produce from the farm. These have been incredibly well received at Totnes Market. The hope is to expand this into fermented foods and relishes with the help of local talented cooks.
An unexpected but exciting development is that the farm has joined forces with the local bakery – the Almond Thief and the Dartington Hall Farm Parsonage farm. In doing so they have formed a new Community Interest Company called Dartington Mill and secured funding from Leader and local investors to buy a new mill. This will mill their Biodynamic YQ wheat into flour, along with Heritage wheat grown on the estate to go into making a local loaf or to sell as flour.
The farm takes volunteers on the first Thursday of the month, 10 am till 4 pm. They also have an open day on Open Farm Sunday every year, that is the first Sunday in June, and hope to have a regular open farm event on their birthday at the end of September every year.
For more information about the farm see the Apricot Centre website.
The entrance to the farm is on Rattery Road, Dartington, Totnes TQ9 6AA.
‘If children are given the opportunity to make connections to nature and growing healthy food, then in the long-term this will lead to them having healthier diet, a broader palette, a greater sense of wellbeing – and it forms the basis for respect for place and nature.’
well-being and education centre
Huxhams Cross Farm’s centre was completed in September 2018. Part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the project’s aim was to build a 99 square metre well-being and education building for occupancy by the Apricot Centre. This would provide:
- a multi-functional space for training purposes, to host visitors and school groups to the farm;
- office space;
- a kitchen with food processing facilities for the creation of products from farm produce and refreshments for staff and visitors; and
- a meeting /consultation room.
Now the project build is complete, the Apricot Centre team are able to offer the following:
Delivery of Training Services
The multi-function training room enables the Apricot Centre to deliver training in sustainability. This includes courses in permaculture, biodynamics and sustainable horticulture for instance. In addition, the room can be used for other purposes, and is available to hire by businesses whose ethics are in line with the Apricot Centre.
The kitchen and food processing facilities enable the creation of value-added products such as jams, chutneys, fruit leathers and compotes. They can also be used in conjunction with the training room to deliver courses in cookery and nutrition.
There is also a private room to deliver therapy services to families and children.