Farm supporting young people with mental health issues sees rise in demand

  • Report by ITV Meridian's Juliette Fletcher

An organic farm which offers young people the chance to learn how to look after animals to help with their mental health, says it has seen a rise in the number of users during the pandemic.

Over the last couple of years the effects that Covid has had on people's mental health has been widely publicised, with many young people reporting struggles with isolation, and less time seeing their friends at school and college.

The Vana Trust Organic Farm helps young people learn new skills, make friends and grow in confidence at their organic farm in Aylesbury.

The farm is set over seven and a half acres, and the charity welcomes young people, over the age of 14, to learn how to feed and look after the animals and grow fruit and vegetables.

It's a valuable resource, helping people with mental health issues, autism and learning disabilities across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Sam Poole is a horticulture student. He started coming to the farm when the lockdowns started and now attends two days a week.

Sam Poole said: "I came here when the pandemic first started. I wanted to improve myself because I was really down.

"I think a lot of people were around that time, at my age, and it really did help, taking that first step to get out, meet up with people and get skills, you know."

The Vana trust was set up in 2003 by Nyasha Gwatidzo to help children in the UK and in Africa. In Zimbabwe children affected by HIV and AIDS are supported in their education.

The UK organic farm was set up in 2009, and it has gone from strength to strength, already helping more than 1,000 people and now they're hoping to expand.

The Trust has previously, collaborated with referred clients from GPs and the charity Mind but now they are looking to help more people through social prescribing.

Every client that comes to the farm has a care plan to help them achieve their goals. They come to the farm for a set number of days a week to learn how to manage the land, grow crops and look after the animals. They also run a lunch club where they can learn how to cook a healthy menu in the farm kitchen, often using their own vegetables.

Importantly the charity provides a space where people can make friends, learn valuable skills and grow in confidence.