A round of funding successes has secured new resources for Growing Well, an organic farm-based charity promoting mental health recovery and well-being.

It means the 14-year-old charity, based on six acres of land near Kendal, South Cumbria, rented from Low Sizergh Farm, a National Trust tenant, has gained funding for the next three years to offer one to one occupational therapy support for participants, and supported catering activity to help people learn independent living skills. Additionally, £5000 each year will cover the costs of running the tractor, buying tools and equipment, and even work boots for participants.

The participants involved with the farm are fully interactive in the running of the organic vegetable operation. Everyone works together at the farm, equality is very important to produce the £30,000 of income which helps keep the project running.

The participants find themselves there either by a doctor's referral or they can self refer, get involved in working outside or in the polytunnels planting from seed, through the complete growing cycle, to harvesting.

Clairelouise Chapman, the general manager, says: "I know it sounds slightly hippy, however people living with mental health issues often feel a sense of hopelessness, with no sense of the future. Growing vegetables and being involved in the cycle of planting, growing, harvesting, eating and then back to planting again is very powerful. It gives a sense of where you are in life."

Volunteers can learn many skills while at Growing Well, the project is very much a stepping stone that helps people set and reach goals to move on with their life.

One of the more surprising boosts to the volunteers is being taught how to drive the farm tractor. Everyone who has learned has really enjoyed the experience. The project is a City and Guilds accredited which means that the skills achieved can be used in future ventures.

Participants usually attend once a week, ClaireLouise adds that often participants feel they have no skills and nothing to offer. "Everyone has something to offer, and it's our job to help them realise that they feel valued."

Being physically unfit has proven connections to mental health issues and recently the staff managed to encourage participants to take part in the training for a 5K. From Couch to 5K is a training programme that takes you through the necessary training to complete a 5K. Clairelouise says it has already backfired on her, she is not a keen runner herself, and is being left behind when they go out on their daily training run. On the bright side, it is improving participants mental and physical wellbeing, so it has been worth the effort.

Clairelouise who, along with her team, is tasked with finding around £200,000 a year to meet the charity’s running costs says the extra funding is fantastic news. She said: “We are a mental health charity that offers a free service to anyone having a hard time with their mental health. As an organic farm, we offer lots of ways for people to become involved with our work, being active and feeling valued, as well as supported to move forwards from illness.

We rely upon charitable donations to enable us to do our work. A big part of my job is to look for money so we can make sure our service is free for anyone who needs it.

“It’s great news to know we can staff our planned new field kitchen, which is a critical part of our therapeutic programme. Many people with poor mental health struggle to look after themselves, so a free hot, healthy lunch is really important!

“Our next job is to fundraise for its contents which includes cooking equipment, storage and a lot of stainless steel. We will be launching a crowd fundraising appeal in the New Year with a target of £10,000. In the mean time we would love to hear from anyone who could help us with our shopping list of equipment.”

To find out more about the work of Growing Well and the services it offers visit: https://growingwell.co.uk/ or to contact Clairelouise Chapman call 015395 61777.

The charity’s home has six poly tunnels and three yurts; used for training, meeting, socialising and relaxing. James produces an annual crop plan, seed sowing lists, planting plans and harvesting forecasts. A weekly work-plan is used to direct beneficiaries and a purpose built sales system produces detailed picking and packing lists. The 15 tonnes of fruit and vegetables grown each year provide 100 local families with seasonal vegetable bags through a crop share scheme, and the salad that is produced is eaten by travellers at both Westmorland Service stations on the M6 and at Low Sizergh Barn. And the produce feeds 20 people each day from a field kitchen in a yurt.

Emma Dewhurst

Ten Stories High

07964 686682

015395 64193