Last year, 1,180 disadvantaged children benefitted from staying at a Jamie’s Farm, now in their tenth year.
I was invited back last week to meet the first intake of young people, and see the work in progress at the farm.
The farmhouse which has been converted to accommodate up to 12 young guests, and teachers accompany them, is now a spacious and light but homely environment.
This particular group of youngsters were quite extraordinary, they brought into stark reality just what Jamie’s Farm is all about. They ranged in age from 14 to 19, and had come from London, Manchester, the West and Wales. All had formerly been disengaged or at risk of exclusion from school, before having experienced and benefitted from the ‘magic’ of Jamie’s Farm.
Last week this group of boys and girls came to Allington Farm as Jamie’s Farm Ambassadors. They had given up their half term to experience what this new Sussex farm had to offer, and give their honest opinions before the first new intake of vulnerable children arrive during the week of March 25.
Jamie’s Farm allows children to experience life in the countryside, and living as a ‘family’, in a safe environment, where no one is judged. They are encouraged to put others, including the animals, before themselves.
The days are busy with feeding, mucking out and getting up close to the livestock. Picking seasonal fruit and vegetables, which they help turn into tasty meals. They take long walks, which included a trip to the top of the Downs, and had planned a visit to Brighton seaside.
At mealtimes they all sit at a huge dining table, where they are encouraged to chat, and when supper is over, each will tell out loud what was special about their day. They say what was good or bad, and rate their feelings from 1-10, mentioning anyone who has made their day extra special.
These young Ambassadors who I had the privilege to chat to, explained how prior to staying at a Jamie’s Farm, they felt excluded from life, or lived in an angry bubble. Most lacked confidence, and some wanted to fight the system. Most had had poor communication skills, and all at some point had been miserable.
Today these young people were happy and utterly charming. They welcomed their guests warmly, and chatted enthusiastically and with genuine pride and gratitude, recognising how Jamie’s Farm had turned their lives around.
They were all highly intelligent, articulate, and positively ambitious for their futures. Several of the boys told me that Wales would ‘definitely’ beat England on Saturday. How right they were!
The farm is slowly taking shape. Eddie the Farm Manager, and the first intake of 120 ewes due to lamb in April, have arrived and are all settling in well.
In due course the plan is to purchase 12 Aberdeen Angus cows, a dairy cow, Suffolk and Lleyn ewes, ponies, goats, ducks, hens and some pigs.
A vegetable garden is in the process of being developed, and major projects include repairing the farm buildings, fencing the 120 acre field into workable paddocks, laying on water, and purchasing a loader tractor and other machinery.
Jamie’s Farm is working hard to raise funds of around £200,000 from grant making charities, local Trusts and individuals from across Sussex. This remarkable charity which transforms children’s lives deserves our support.
Donations in kind such as Sussex heifers, some pigs and laying hens, a quad bike, livestock trailer or fencing posts, would all be welcomed with open arms.
To get in touch or make a donation, go to: www.jamiesfarm.org.uk