When Lee Smith and Liz Marley moved to the Suffolk countryside in 2012, they left their established professions in engineering and law behind them for a more relaxing lifestyle.
Fast forward six years and they are proud owners of Poppies Care Farm, the first care farm in the UK to comply with Care Farming UK's Code of Practice. Traditionally a European concept, care farms provide health, social and educational care services for individuals from a range of vulnerable groups.
Located on a seven-acre smallholding on Purdis Heath, Poppies Care Farm has been in operation for four years and is accredited by Suffolk County Council. It features areas of woodland, pasture, and fruit and vegetable growing areas and is also home to four alpacas, seven goats, two donkeys and a range of chickens, guinea pigs and bees.
Through a dedicated learning programme, the individual needs of each participant is taken into account, enabling them to increase their social contact and build confidence through a range of activities that help them achieve realistic goals.
The team currently hosts up to 24 clients, who attend one or two days per week to partake in a range of activities including caring for the animals, farming projects, horticulture, wildlife conservation and wood working.
Speaking of the farm, Liz said: "When we first purchased the land we were unsure of what we would actually do with it, until a friend suggested that we transformed it into a care farm. Over the last four years it's been a real pleasure to see the care farmers develop both their social and practical skills, from learning how to grow vegetables and tend to the animals, to making bird boxes and selling them at the local Suffolk markets."
To enable the team to complete all of these activities successfully, they recently fundraised for a Kubota BX2350 tractor, trailer and LA423 loader to replace their existing Kubota machine. This was made a reality by receiving donations from Comic Relief, National Lottery Fund and Kubota UK.
Liz continued: "It's been absolutely fantastic to have the new tractor here at the farm. We bought our previous Kubota machine when we first opened, and although it was over 30 years old, it did the job really well. However, as the size of our operation has grown, the Kubota tractor was being put through its paces more and more, so it was time to invest in a new machine."
The BX2350 tractor was delivered by their local dealer Thurlow Nunn Standen after Liz and Lee visited the dealership to find out which machine would be right for the farm. As they had worked with a Kubota machine for three years, the couple knew they wanted another Kubota tractor due to its outstanding reliability and durability.
"The BX2350 was the perfect machine for us as the four-wheel drive makes the machine so easy for the care farmers to operate, along with the comfortable seat and simple to use layout of the levers and pedals. As many of the care farmers are unable to drive a car, they find real pleasure from being able to drive the tractor, with many of them able to successfully reverse the machine with a trailer on - something that is really tricky to do!
"We use the Kubota for a range of activities, from shifting heavy loads of wood, concrete and rubbish, moving and turning compost, to repairing the track to the farm. We are really grateful to Kubota for providing funds towards the tractor purchase, whilst also donating the trailer and loader. The machine supports our daily learning programme, enabling the care farmers to complete a wider range of activities that are all designed to support their ongoing development."
For more information on Kubota and its wide range of solutions for the agricultural, groundcare and construction industries, call 01844 268000 or visit www.kubota.co.uk.