Our speaker was Geoff Stevens from Pathways Care Farm in Lowestoft (behind Tesco). The land was originally a farm some of which was sold off for development. After the farmer moved away the remaining land became very neglected. Suffolk County Council obtained the land on a 27 year lease in order that the land could be used by vulnerable people.
The people working at the farm can come with a variety of problems including Autism, depression and dementia. Geoff showed us a video of the clearing of the land by both volunteers working along side the co workers, and what a difficult job it was, as the site was covered in brambles and thistles. The aim is to have a cafe and a kitchen eventually. They now have a big polytunnel where they grow vegetables and salads, and there are animals, including goats, pigs and alpacas. There is also a wildlife pond owned by Essex water and a bird hide for watching all of the wildlife.
The second video showed the people working on the farm some who were able to speak to the camera which showed how confident they were, obviously loving what they were doing. The video demonstrated that working with plants and animals increases self confidence and self esteem and helps social interaction, something I think our members would agree with. Pathways has an ethos that people are not defined by their illness but by what they can do and it is hoped that some will be able to move on to other jobs such as a Garden Centre.
The society members had lots of questions from how people were referred, to what happens to the animals and the role of the volunteers. It was a most entertaining and informative talk with quite a lot of funny stories. We hope to be able to visit the farm one evening. There were many plants for sale ranging from vegetables to flowers and bulbs as well as free seeds. Our next meeting on the 19th July will be the members table show, always a good meeting, non members are welcome.