By Katrina ffiske
Able Hands Together is a small farmholding in Stoford, for adults with learning disabilities (co-farmers) to visit and learn how to nurture animals and grow produce.
Congratulations to Laura Tween (pictured) and her team who have not only kept the farm open for the past year, but has fought for funding to make it Covid safe. I was invited to visit the farm to see first-hand what is offered to the clients.
Laura is a power-house of energy. Able Hands Together is entirely her venture and her enthusiasm is inspiring, particularly as Laura has dyslexia, ADHD and ASD. She has an inbuilt determination to help others, grow the business, and to show what can be achieved even if you have disabilities.
“I don’t let anything hold me back,” Laura said. “Early on in lockdown, I managed to get finances to create two pods inside our barn. In each pod there are screens so co-farmers can sit and eat their lunch at a safe distance.
Then, crucially, we received funding for an outside portaloo, allowing each pod to have their own toilet.
“We have the Goat pod and the Chicken pod. For those who have to self-isolate, I received a grant to pay someone to send out packages with arts, crafts and projects, setting up Virtual Together,” Laura said.
“It was crucial to keep them happy and entertained while at home.”
The farm is set in beautiful rolling landscape at Little Wishford Farm, with a river running through the land, and a bridge, leading to the livestock.
I helped the seven co-workers feed the livestock. Wheelbarrows of hay and straw pushed through thick mud to feed hungry sheep, goats and alpacas. Buckets of water were carried from the overflowing river to top up the duck baths. Hen eggs were collected, and escaped chickens caught and put back in their pens.
I stood back, slightly out of my comfort zone, but it was impressive watching the co-farmers getting completely stuck in, becoming covered in mud but loving the routine and caring for the animals.
Laura does not shy away from asking for help and is excellent at networking, finding the right people who are able to push the business forward. It really is an inspiring place, so congratulations to Laura, Davina and Karl for all the energy they put into the centre and their positive attitude through these hard times.
If you know anyone who would be interested in becoming a co-farmer, visit ablehandstogether.org.uk or call Laura on 0771 3439 346.