Meet the former teacher who now runs a 'care farm' for children and adults with additional needs

A former teacher who set up a care farm said her team’s greatest reward is being able to help people flourish.

Tanya Bish with some of her livestock

Tanya Bish, a former teacher, owns and manages Living Potential Care Farming which has been based on Carlton Hill Farm in Sicklinghall since 2016.

The farm’s owner Gareth Gaunt had started up his own care farm around 15 years ago which supported children who were not in mainstream education, adults with additional needs and a programme for people on probation.

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“Our biggest achievement is the members, those who come here maybe one or two days a week,” Tanya said.

Tanya tends to her orchard

“They call this their job, their work, whether they are collecting eggs from our hens, processing them into boxes or collecting apples from our orchard for pressing into apple juice. It is all meaningful because they know we have customers and they know they have to be careful - particularly with the eggs.”

Tanya said the aim of the care farm is to provide an environment adults with disabilities can feel comfortable in expressing themselves and be able to take on their own individual responsibilities.

Spending time at Living Potential can also lead to employment opportunities, although Tanya said that is not the necessarily the goal, she is delighted when it happens.

“There was a young woman coming here who then started work on a larger farm looking after the hens and working in egg processing. It was fantastic that she was able to achieve that.

“I’m not actively getting in touch with places to ask whether they could take on members in paid employment.”

Tanya said everyone at Living Potential has their own role and is part of the team whether they are staff or student members.

“We encourage everyone to have their say in the direction and day-to-day running of the farm.”

The staff team is made up largely from those with backgrounds in teaching, caring and support services. Tanya said they are all “devoted to encouraging greater expression from members through structured work and relaxation”.

“We are dedicated to teaching skills to our members whether that is through farm work, tractor maintenance, cooking or arts and crafts.

“We loosely follow a qualification on entry level small animal care and horticulture.

“Members targets can include topics such as why it is so important to keep henhouses clean or put the right eggs into boxes. We add observations and will work with them on areas where they might get stuck.

“It’s all done in very small groups. That way we can give as much one-to-one attention as possible which means members can be self-directed and independent.”

These achievements are all recorded and Tanya said this helps members feel they have a purpose and investment in what happens on the farm, particularly in the free range egg business.

“Members collect the eggs each day from our 100 hens which are on a spring surge at the moment.”

Caring for the hens is also part of the daily tasks, feeding and checking their water. Tanya said the hens are mostly hybrids and include breeds such as white leghorns, columbines and copper blacks.

“Having different varieties provides another interest and talking point for members,” she explained.

“They also provide different coloured eggs and one of the jobs is to make sure there is a white and a green egg in each box of six. Our customers love that.”

Living Potential Care Farming eggs are stocked in local independent shops as well as direct from the farm. The organisation is also looking to develop links with other outlets in Harrogate and Leeds.

Tanya said she is always looking to extend the range of experiences they can offer. Their latest project, which is set to get underway soon will also see them collaborating with Rainbow Care group, which works with people who have dementia.

“We have a lovely old Fergie tractor that we are going to take apart, put back together and give a total respray to bring it back to its former glory. The project will involve members from our team plus those from the Rainbow.”

Tanya is also looking at expanding Living Potential’s services to those who are suffering from mental health issues.

“The atmosphere here, being outdoors in the countryside can really help lighten the load of those suffering mental health problems.

“Working with the earth and with animals is a proven therapeutic environment. There is a place in Cumbria where people are volunteering and creating a market garden that is sustainable financially. That’s the kind of model I’d be looking at.”