The value of biodiversity amongst sustainable growers and small farms has gained new weight in the light of climate change throughout the past years.Feeding and treasuring the soil is a movement towards a more environmentally friendly system of growing produce.
If these ideas and values are combined with therapeutic horticulture and a focus on the complete ecology that exists in nature, unity and harmony can exist.
And so it does on a small care farm located in the heart of Worcestershire:
The care farm run by Lucy Otto is part of a space for diversity called “The Fold”.
Here, amongst a natural therapy centre and artisan studios a cafe and a farm shop are part of a diverse and sustainable space with organic food and produce provided by Lucy and her team.
But not only growing food and taking care of the nature is important at the farm but also the therapeutic value that is created through incorporating people facing mental health challenges, social exclusion or learning difficulties to build confidence, independence and other skills whilst being included in the farm activities.
As i visited the farm i had the pleasure of asking Lucy a few questions about the farm and its unique space within horticulture.
“Have you always had a connection to Horticulture?
No.Well I say no but my mom grew a few tomatoes the back-garden. But then from the age since i left home at 17 to 27 i had no connection with horticulture at all. I didn’t. I never touched the soil.
“What made you decide to go into Horticulture?”
I was living in the city working in hospital driving a car from my house to hospital being in offices and wards all day and i got really bored of it so i knew i needed to change something but i didn't know what it was.
I applied to go and do therapy work in Vietnam with “VSO” (Voluntary Services Oversees).They sent me to Vietnam for just over a year and i was living in a really rural area, like totally rural.
I made friends with the families that i was working with and they would invite me to go stay with them and eat their food and so i became part of the village and witnessed 4-year olds knowing everything in the garden, knowing how to take the water bottle out to the rice plants and little kids would know every herb and they would fetch them for their moms and i was like: “Wow i am here as an expert with a degree and a laptop and actually these kids are a lot smarter than i am and every person build their own house and grows their own food.”
It was around the same time there was a massive blizzard here in the UK with loads of snow and everyone was panicking and i was speaking to my mom overlooking the news,and there were queues at the supermarket for miles and i realised:“We think we had progress, but we do not know how to look after ourselves fundamentally, how to plant things and grow them and for example in Vietnam, if there was a massive crisis they would just carry on feeing themselves, they wouldn't notice!”
The i came back and applied for an apprenticeship on an organic farm and never looked back.
“What made you come to the care farm at the fold?”
I finished my apprenticeship and it was a total coincidence:One of the landowners gave me lift one day down to Devon and i was telling her about learning how to farm and she mentioned having a big farmland needing someone to run it and it just worked out really nicely!
“What advice would you give a young horticulturist?”
Everything you do, try and do it in a way that your great great grandchildren can do it too.By that i mean just taking care of the soil and being sustainable.If we for example got a finite resource, do not use it all up because that is selfish.
And only do things you love doing.If you want to grow veg, grow the ones you like eating.
If you want to grow flowers, grow the ones you think are beautiful. Put your passion in it and then it works out.
“What is you goal here at the fold?”
Producing lots of good food for local people and to provide access to the magical world that is horticulture to people who wouldn't ordinarily get access to for various reasons of social exclusion or deprivation, mental health issues or their normal lifestyle.
“Which part of your job excites you the most?”
The times i step out of myself and think what we are doing is really magical is, when there is total diversity of people working together all completely engaged and enjoying the activity.Wether its someone blind or someone at the age of 80, someone from Japan and someone who is 17, or someone who had health problems.That what I get the most from.
“What was the biggest lesson you learnt here at the care farm?”
I learned so many lessons: But one thing i really learned is negotiating around using someone else's land. I cant afford to buy land on my own so i and my team are using land that belongs to someone else and he is really generous.I guess i learned the business skills, being assertive and also humble:For example creating a business plan convincing him that i knew what i was doing.And also respecting his land and knowing my place within.
“How can people support you and the fold care farm?”
I would say the main thing that anyone can do to support local sustainable horticulture project is to buy their products and food. All of them will try to make it as affordable as possible so if you have the option to support them by buying their things. It´s only slightly more expensive and it tastes amazing!
“How do you think does brexit affect horticulture and the way we see horticulture?”
I personally voted to remain.
Because i believe in trying to create systems that are good and equal for all people and the environment.However i do think that some of the system within the EU were promoting a highly industrialised model of farming and finance: Supermarkets with low price production and cheap food.
I do feel like Brexit is an opportunity for the UK to create systems which are more healthier!For workers and the environment and it is a change to promote and support smaller more diverse farms. More people rather than more tractors, so more engaging work.
It might create a better market to sell organic foods to supermarkets as well.
Even though the season is coming to an end and the days might slow down, Lucy and her team are still buzzing with energy, growing food and inspiring people.
One Day at a time.
More about Lucy and “The Fold” can be found here :
More insight into the fold can be found here:
For stories and images about their daily life check out their social media: