Updated: Oct 21
Rhubarb Farm in Langwith is a social enterprise. Established in 2001, it supports a diverse mix of people from age 11 to 82 in a variety of ways.
Helen explained, “everyone who comes here is a ‘volunteer’ and we have supported and unsupported volunteers. Supported volunteers tend to be kids who are struggling in mainstream education or people with learning difficulties or disabilities. Unsupported volunteers are people who may have issues with drug and alcohol misuse, from probation, have mental ill health, older people or people who are unemployed.
“We currently support around 50 volunteers throughout the week with 15 to 20 people volunteering each day.”
The farm is primarily focused on horticulture and growing fruit and vegetables that are sold in the farm shop or as part of the crop share
scheme where customers pay £5/week for a veg bag.
Volunteers get involved in all aspects of the farm; gardening, caring for animals, learning skills to live independently, including working in the community café that opens once a week and serves a meal to isolated or vulnerable adults.
It’s difficult to sum up what it does, but this is what probably also makes it successful, the support offered is flexible and aims to meet the specific needs and preferences of the individual volunteer. Helen Heath, volunteer co-ordinator explained “what’s different about what we offer here is that there’s no limit to how long people can come, it’s not a 12-week programme, it’s for as long as it’s needed.” Chris, one of the volunteers has been coming to Rhubarb Farm since 2001 and has seen the farm evolve from a field filled with brambles to the productive and extensive farm today with the farm shop, community café, training rooms, admin buildings, multiple poly tunnels, an area for animals, chickens, donkeys, a pony and bees and so much more. “Everyone here is always helpful. I’m doing my ASDAN qualifications in independent living skills, I’ve been learning to cook with Mel and recently a slow cooker - they’ve got me a slow cooker cookbook that I’m using,” says Chris.
Josh, age 23, came to Rhubarb Farm as part of the government post-COVID Kick Start Programme aiming to get people on universal credit into employment with 25 hours paid work a week. Josh explained “I was quite nervous and struggled to come at first, but I enjoyed it so much that I volunteered to come unpaid for extra hours, I now do four or five days a week and really look forward to it, it’s calming and not stressful. Being at Rhubarb Farm has been so helpful and I’ve just got a job in landscaping which starts next week, I wouldn’t have got here without Rhubarb Farm.”
Neil has been coming to Rhubarb Farm since 2015, “I was out of work and wanted to give something back when I started. I believe in the philosophy of volunteering. I find Rhubarb Farm inspiring. During lockdown the food bags really helped me and my mum. Mum recently passed away and I’m grieving and struggling with noise from a road I live near, being at Rhubarb Farm is calming, it’s an antidote to the stresses in my life.”
I asked Helen how many people can get involved as volunteers and whether there were spaces. “We have limited numbers of volunteers, but things change all the time as people’s circumstances change. If Rhubarb Farm sounds as though it could help someone, they can contact the farm and we'll see if it would be suitable for them.”
As a charity, Rhubarb Farm also welcomes donations, that could be monetary, or good quality garden tools, building supplies etc. If you would like to offer support please give them a call.
Rhubarb Farm is in Langwith and people often need to be able to find their own way to the farm, but there is a minibus available with limited spaces and set pick-up points – it heads into Chesterfield twice a week.
If you’d like to see the farm for yourself – they’re running a Monster Mash Halloween Event on 23 October (prebooking required) and a Christmas Market on Sat 4 and Sun 5 December 2021. You can also visit their shop on Fridays between 10am and 3pm and Saturdays 10am to 1pm. If you go on a Saturday, you can ‘pick your own veg’ from the seasonal produce available and pay at the shop.
T: 01623 741210
Words: Nicola Chapman
Images: Rhubarb Farm