During the spring and summer months, the beautiful farm and woodland at the Countryside Education Trust, near Beaulieu in the New Forest, would usually be teeming with visitors.
The centre, which has a mission to “connect people with the countryside”, welcomes hundreds of schoolchildren each year for day visits and residential stays, as well as local community groups and older people from local care homes. Visitors meet the farm’s animals, learn about rural life and gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between farming and the food we eat.
This year, it’s a very different story. The centre, which relies mainly on income generated from these visits, has been closed since March 23rd because of lockdown restrictions and will not be able to reopen fully for many months. As a result, its income has plummeted.
To help it get through this difficult time, the CET has launched a Feed Our Farmyard crowdfunding campaign with rewards for supporters in return for donations.
These include the opportunity to have exclusive use of the woods for an afternoon, stay on the farm for a short break, or reserve a bumper BBQ pack of sausages!
All money raised goes to feeding the animals including their geese Archie and Ada and their family of three Goslings; the goats Florence, Milly, Molly and Sweetpea and many more. The campaign has worked well so far but needs more support to help raise funds and to enable the Trust to receive match funding.
The law firm Thrings, a Polymedia client, has a partnership with the Countryside Education Trust and as a result, Polymedia provides pro bono support to the Trust. Polymedia also created the popular Thrings Eats series of articles, which celebrates the many and varied food-producing businesses in Hampshire, and is run in association with the Trust.
Jane Cooper, CEO of the Trust, pictured with Thrings Partner Sally Pike, says: “As a small charity these are truly challenging times. At the moment all our income generating activities – residential school visits, weddings, outdoor playgroups , community events and rural skills courses are sadly all on hold.
“Even though lockdown measures are easing, we won’t be able to fully re-open for many months and we are still unable to carry out most of our income-generating activities. But we do need to carry on caring for our animals and our wonderful wildlife habitats in the meantime.
“We know that times are hard for everyone but life goes on here on the farm. We are a small charity and receive no government funding – and at the moment we can’t earn our keep. We can’t stress enough how much we appreciate the support of the community. Every penny really does count.”
If you would like to support the charity, please visit the fundraising page here.