An inspiring new farm will be set up to provide residents across the East Hampshire district with a beautiful, accessible rural place where they can nurture their mental health and kickstart healthier lifestyles.
Cllr Richard Millard, EHDC’s Leader, announced the unique project and said that he hopes a new community farm would spearhead the council’s top priorities as well as boosting rural jobs, developing green skills and increasing biodiversity.
The farm will offer a huge variety of opportunities, ranging from wellbeing to work experience and from mechanical engineering to mental health.
The project, called Grow Up!, will most likely be delivered in a phased programme over the next three years and beyond, in collaboration with landowners, farmers, charities, businesses and the local community.
Cllr Millard said: “This is an incredible, unique plan to help local people in a way we have never been able to help them before.
“Grow Up! will give people the chance to learn skills that will last them a lifetime. It will be a refuge for people with dementia, it will offer apprenticeships, community gardens, allotments and orchards.
“It will connect local people of all ages, to each other and to the countryside. It will reduce social isolation, boost mental health, teach our children about the environment and promote healthy, active lifestyles for mind and body.
“I see the farm as providing an oasis of calm and opportunity for our residents.
“The farm will offer training, apprenticeships and career opportunities for people looking to work in the farming industry. It will deliver local jobs, revive rural skills and provide advice, learning and development for young people and businesses.
“Alongside traditional skills we will employ new technologies to deliver carbon-neutral farming techniques, sustainable food-production and make use of new digital and virtual platforms.
“And, crucially, it will help develop a renewed sense of place in our residents, forge new bonds between our communities and the countryside and cultivate an understanding of the district’s rural roots.
“The community farm project may start small, but my vision is that it will grow year on year, yielding ever more benefits to our residents and communities.”
To help fund the project the council is preparing an investment proposal for £1 million from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, run by Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The funding would be phased over three years, and the project would deliver more services and opportunities on a year-by-year basis.
Local experts, businesses and communities will collaborate under the leadership of East Hampshire District Council to get it up and running.
Grow Up! will be split into four main themes:
Green places - supporting farmers to develop regenerative and sustainable farming, tree planting, boosting biodiversity and recycling opportunities, reducing food waste and using sustainable food productions.
Community & Wellbeing - connecting people through volunteering and community-led projects in rural areas, supporting active lives and better mental and physical health and food choices.
Skills & Growth - outdoor classroom, forest schools, volunteering, work experience, employability and life skills, supporting young people to consider land-based careers through traineeships and apprenticeships.
Rural businesses - delivering local rural jobs, supporting businesses through a rural business network, supporting with skills gaps, providing advice, learning and development for young people and businesses. Expanding opportunities for local farmers.
Local organisations and businesses are encouraged to come forward and play their part in the project.
To find out more contact the council by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the project to proceed it will need to be approved by the normal council decision-making process.