Keeping it green in Hambrook

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THE VISION of spreading the organic word to younger generations has become a reality due to the perseverance of a Hambrook woman.

Maggie Haynes, 53, is the founder of Tuppenny Barn Organics and Education and has worked tirelessly for nine years in a bid to transform an overgrown two-acre plot of land into a thriving, educational community hub.

“It was just a green field site, it had grass that was taller than me and one barn, but now we have the education centre, wildlife pond, orchard, compost, soft fruit, recyclable plastic greenhouse, flower garden and willow dome,” said Maggie.

After buying the land in 2004, determined Maggie planted, hedged and fenced for two years before being joined by colleague and horticulturist Becca Flood.

Together the pair welcomed a school visit from Chidham Primary School, where the children planted 30 fruit trees... and it all grew from there.

Based between Southbourne and Emsworth, the organic smallholding now attracts more than 12 school visits a year, enabling youngsters to engage with their environment and share information on how to grow, cook and eat the best kind of food.

Talking about what inspired her to take this path, Maggie said, “It’s two-fold. When I first started it was to grow food for the local community and to provide an inspirational environment for children to learn about the environment.”

Maggie is determined to see Tuppenny Barn flourish even more, hoping to see an indoor educational centre being completed this year, which will provide a space for community events, meetings and courses.

Work began on building the structure, made from natural and sustainable materials, in April, 2011.

Depending on funding, Maggie has high hopes of seeing the centre open in September.

“Seeing the education centre grow is truly amazing. It’s going to be very much a community building, open to the public, and a lot of groups can hire it for their activities. It provides a lovely backdrop and a chance for us to talk to people about sustainability,” said Maggie.

“It’s about talking to people about the green way of life and a chance to show what can be done. It will give us such a great range of things that we will be able to do.”

Once completed, the centre will enable visitors all year round and unlock a whole host of opportunities accessible to the community.

Maggie hopes to hold projects for adults with learning difficulties and is keen to attract visitors from more disadvantaged areas to discuss being kind to nature.

“It is about providing an inspirational environment for our community and to re-connect with the land. It’s about the interaction with nature to educate and encourage to learn,” said Maggie.

A PASSION FOR BUILDING SUSTAINABLY

Maggie and Becca have forged a close friendship with building designer John Wyatt, who is passionate about building sustainably, to come up with a design for the education centre.

Their vision for the appearance of the new centre mirrored designer John’s idea, to create a circular space which 
linked back to an historical central community meeting point.

“It has been absolutely amazing because the reality was we needed to find something that was going to protect our future as an organisation or we would have to close,” said Maggie.

The growing trend of obesity in young people and the health of the nation is a growing concern for Maggie.

“I am extremely worried about it. I read a recent Hampshire County Council report quoting that in Year 6, we’re talking 11 years old, 15 per cent are overweight and 17 per cent are obese and that is a really frightening figure.

“I think if we do not tackle it, there are going to be so many problems we are stirring up for the future generations.

“One of the main reasons for doing it is we aim to show the children the fork-to-fork principle, bringing them into the kitchen, growing vegetables so they can prepare them and relate one with the other.”

Educating young people about their environment is a key message Maggie hopes to continue.

“It is about teaching children about nature. There are so many who are divorced from it. It cannot come soon enough, it is great to see the project come along over the last two years,” she said.

Determined Maggie is striving to raise the £80,000 by August to finish the unique indoor education centre and see her vision completed.

“Life will change here, but hopefully for the better, to make it a more sustainable business that can continue for many years. I am very lucky, I have met some wonderful people along the journey who have supported me along the way,” she said.

To find out more about Tuppenny Barn Organics and Education, or to support Maggie in her fundraising efforts, click here.