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.
It’s been a busy and changeable summer at the farm. There are now ten acres of field vegetables, six polytunnels of fruit and vegetables, and five acres of YQ wheat. Two further polytunnels are being put up. They will be planted up with apricots and passion fruits to add to the fruit supplied directly to customers, which this summer included some small but mighty flavoursome melons. The other arable field is down to clovers, grazed by 150 hens that are laying fine eggs. In addition, the two Shetland cows Damson and Daffodil are in the conservation grazed Long Meadow which is now a picture of health with over 200 orchids counted in spring. The other two fields are planted with 600 fruit trees as part of an agroforestry project.
The farm’s expanding staff team has recently bid farewell to three apprentices who were with them since October 2019. Two have joined the part time staff team, and three new apprentices will be joining in October 2020. Increasing demand for the farm’s eggs has seen them recently welcome 65 new White Leghorn hens, all called Clare! There is a brand new chicken house to house Clare and her sisters and the farm hopes they will start producing a regular supply of eggs soon.
Having apprentices has enabled the farm to take on new markets as well as restart the Friday Market in Totnes. You can now find The Apricot Centre biodynamic and organic produce at Newton Abbot Good Food Market as well as Totnes Good Food Market once a month on a Sunday.
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.
The Wellbeing Service is as busy as ever as the farm continues to support Looked After Children and their families through their mental health service. They have seen an increasing number of families being referred to them over Covid-19 and are in the swing of providing face to face and online support. As well as the farm’s therapeutic work, their nature connection work to support wellbeing and mental health has started again with three new projects. They are working with the Veterans Farm Able Foundation; on a woodland wellbeing project with Looked After Children; and providing Nature Therapeutic Support Activities for young people at risk of suicide.
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 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 2021.
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. 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 Old 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.