As the farming industry is hit by changes to funding and subsidies, many farms are diversifying and changing their focus. One innovation that’s rapidly growing in popularity is the ‘care farm’, where working in agriculture provides a form of therapy for those with complex and special needs.
One of the first care farms in the UK was Pennyhooks Farm in Oxfordshire. It’s much more than a therapy centre with a few animals though – it’s a fully operational beef farm that exclusively engages people on the autism spectrum to work there.
In this film, we see the inner workings of the farm’s beef and egg production through the eyes of the autistic people who work there. With only 22% of autistic adults in the UK in any kind of employment, they describe the purpose and meaning working on the farm has given them.
One member of the team is Matt, who has Asperger’s syndrome. Before starting at the farm, 24-year-old Matt spend days in his bedroom playing video games. Now he plays a key part on the farm, managing the care of the hundreds of chickens.
A newer member of the farm community is 18-year-old Murray, son of BBC Radio 2 DJ Ken Bruce. Murray is one of several non-verbal people on the farm. He communicates using an electronic letter board, and shares an intimate glimpse into his lived experience. His main duty is caring for the donkeys on the farm. He and his family talk about the difference this work has made to Murray’s life.
But keeping this farm going is no easy feat. Lydia Otter took over the farm’s running from her father, becoming the third generation of her family to do so. With big ambitions and a growing fundraising bill, money is a constant source of worry for Lydia. Can she keep the farm thriving, for the sake of her animals, family, and her autistic students?