Community farm reopens thanks to our coronavirus fund grant

A COMMUNITY farm will be able to offer mental health sufferers the chance to alleviate stress by volunteering there, thanks to a coronavirus fund grant.

The River Bourne Community Farm in Salisbury has been given £5,000 by the Wiltshire Community Foundation from its Coronavirus Response Fund to employ a part-time member of staff to start a programme for new volunteers whose mental health has been challenged.

Sara-Jane Hancock, who is in charge of education at the farm, said it saw a surge of volunteer help during the lockdown, but this is tailing off furlough comes to an end.

She said: “We thought no one was going to want to come and volunteer during the lockdown but actually it was completely the opposite. As it was one of the things people could do officially to get outside, they wanted to carry on. Even some of our old volunteers who had stopped came back again.

“But as people go back to work, we are getting lots of gaps in our feeding and egg collecting rota. We are often approached by mental health organisations in the Salisbury area who say they have got clients who would benefit from being outdoors and with support would like to come and do some volunteering.”

She said the farm, which relies on volunteers, needs a steady supply of helpers. “We are looking at targeted recruiting of volunteers who could really benefit from coming here. We have been working with a few charities, including Rethink and Woodstock House,” she said.

“We may also look at people living in sheltered housing or in care homes who could really do with something meaningful to do. There are bound to be people who will have suffered as a result of the coronavirus lockdown and this post will help us to accommodate them.”

She said the varied work on the farm and adjoining water meadows out in the fresh air and alongside animals including chickens, pigs, donkeys, cows and rabbits could be extremely beneficial to volunteers suffering stress and anxiety.

“At any one time we can have a hundred volunteers on our books who help not just with the animal feeding and the egg collecting but with they work in the café, they do maintenance around the farm, they help at our events and many other roles,” said Ms Hancock. “They are really amazing and we genuinely couldn’t run the farm without them, that’s been brought home to us over the last few weeks.

“We are delighted to have the grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation, and it will make a big difference to us and our work.”

Find out more about volunteering at the farm here.

Pictured: River Bourne Community Farm education officer Sarah-Jane Hancock with Nimbus the rabbit