Ampleforth Abbey Trust provided five acres of land along with the redundant farm buildings - which were refurbished to create the Chocolate factory. We took over the five acre field in February 2015, starting with initial ground work prepration which included digging perimeter trenches and erecting rabbit fencing to protect the field and ultimately our crops. In recompense for repelling the rabbit population we created beetle mounds to provide a habitat, in return they will help to control some of the pest insects. We quickly realised that it wasn’t just the building that had attracted a few surprising inhabitants (bats and owls), we had attracted a number of moles since the previous occupants, (cattle and sheep) had left the field! To help with the preparation work, in 2015 we introduced ‘Spade Sundays’ which proved very popular - the volunteers were an invaluable resource in those first few months.
In the Summer of 2015 we received planning permission to erect number of polytunnels over allotment style beds. It was at this point we were in a position to recruit our first co-workers who, as well as helping hands on, started to receive both on and off the job training. Our market research identified a range of potential customers and we have plans to install an honesty barrow in the centre of Gilling East in the Spring of 2017. The idea was suggested at a village consultation meeting where the enterprise as a whole was given a big 'thumbs up' from all local residents who attended. They were keen for us to introduce a ‘veggy box’ service. Both the local inn, The Fairfax Arms and Ampleforth College will be purchasing our micro salads and we are in discussions to grow a bespoke range of produce which will include unusual varieties and colours.
Richard Fenwick is working with Linda Jameson on some recipes incorporating various own grown herbs and fruits so that we are able to combine both the horticulture and the chocolate manufacturing enterprises to produce an innovative and unique selection of fillings for our bespoke Chocolate ranges.
Integral to the horticulture project, we have been asked by the College to put together a proposal to develop and maintain their existing nature trail and picnic area. We are already excited about creating sensory aspects to the trail which would make it particularly attractive, especially to children and adults with autism.
Along with the Beanstalk Gardens site in Sheffield, we have become an accredited site to run RHS Courses Level 1 and 2. This will allow co-workers to train on the job and gain a recognised qualification aiding their progression into employment. The site is now growing a range of micro vegetables, salads and fruits, future plans include growing produce for our other social enterprises and for Autism Plus residents across the region.
If you would like to arrange a visit, or to find out more about work experiences and placements in horticulture for individuals with disabilities in North Yorkshire contact us here.
Drone footage from February 2017 showing views of the horticulture site and surrounding area.