September 2019 Meeting

On Tuesday 24th September Maggie Haynes came to speak to the Society about the Tuppenny Barn Project, its beginnings and objectives.  Starting in 1997 after leaving a successful army career and a short interim time as a security consultant while she decided what she really wanted to do, Maggie realised she wanted to make a difference.  Finding a 3 hectare overgrown field with a run-down barn on it in Tuppenny Lane she started on a project clearing the land and putting in twelve long, raised beds where she intended to grow vegetables.  With a little help from a small flock of Jacob’s Sheep to keep the grass down and freely admitting that at that time she had no horticultural experience, her vision was to help the community and particularly the children so they could learn where food comes from and how it  reaches the dinner table.  With this in mind schools were contacted and the Chidham Primary School was the first to understand the potential benefits and take up the offer.

Like all worthwhile projects it has mushroomed and evolved as did her horticultural experience through attending many DEFRA courses and in 2009 became an accredited charity.  However it was clear that although the barn had electricity it did not fit her vision.  What Maggie really wanted was a purpose-built educational centre so by 2013, after some wrangling with the Council, permission was granted and work began on the building that, true to Maggie’s principles of sustainability and organic methods, has straw bale walls with line render and a roof made of wooden slats and the first event was held.  However at the start there was no money for this £300,000 project but through frantic fundraising from grants, events, etc., and a very kind donation from Gordon Roddick of the Body Shop it came to fruition.  More help came from the late Sir Albert Finney with the donation of a solar tunnel now used for therapy activities.

There are two Educational Officers and the project has grown to include help for vulnerable people through horticultural therapy, pre-school activities, distribution of vegetable/salad bags, a farm shop open two days a week, soft fruit cultivation, cut flowers and an orchard and in a kitchen in the building the children can change the raw produce into vegetable soup and kale crisps, among other things. The beautiful building also helps sustain the project as it can be rented out for functions with all proceeds going to the charity and is also used by the community for meetings and lectures.  Help with the project of this size comes in the form of sixty-six volunteers – some regular, some just when they can but to get this far is a credit to Maggie and her determination and the rewards for the children are enormous.  Tuppenny Barn is open to visitors if you would like to see for yourself and after such an inspirational talk I am sure there will be many of the Society’s members dong just that.

Written by Christine Dunham, Outings Secretary