A little gate to a bigger world
Little Gate Farm supports adults and children with Learning Disabilities in East Sussex. We are setting up an enterprise for adults with learning disabilities to grow and sell cut flowers. We want to raise the funds to give real opportunities for paid work.
1) to create new opportunities for paid work for people with learning disabilities who are currently excluded from employment
2) to change the attitudes of employers and the wider community towards people with a learning disability.
We have been running for 5 years and have already supported 50 people with learning disabilities into paid employment. We have helped our trainees to make huge positive changes in their lives and we want to be able to give more people the opportunity to learn work related skills. We want to create chances for adults with learning disabilities to run their own business.
We need your help to make this happen and to build on the success that we have already had. We need support to help our trainees build a sustainable enterprise and to give them the skills for their futures.
We run 4 projects:
The work takes place at Little Gate Farm, a 46-acre farm and in workplaces in Hastings and Bexhill where we help vulnerable people to develop skills which promote confidence, enterprise and employment skills. By increasing independence among people with Learning Disabilities we improve physical and mental health, reduce dependence on social care and improve integration into the local community.
We know that market gardening is a proven route to help people with learning disabilities and autism into many kinds of employment. Little Gate established a horticulture project in 2017. The project supplies vegetables and flowers to our own weekly market stall in Hastings, as well as the farm’s own kitchen.
We have found that the most popular products with market customers are cut flowers. Our plan for 2019 and beyond is to focus on cut flower production for the market, covering at least 6 months of the year plus Christmas, while continuing to supply seasonal vegetables and fruits to the Little Gate Farm kitchen. Beyond our market stall, there are opportunities to supply flowers to the local hospitality industry, as well as events on our farm including weddings.
Young adults with Learning Disabilities face challenges not faced by other young people. They are excluded from opportunities available to others including education and employment. They face discrimination from people who do not understand their needs or abilities. At present only 6% of adults with Learning Disabilities are in paid employment in the UK. This compares with 95% of the general population. This statistic highlights the inequality that we are seeking to redress. The areas we serve, Hastings and Bexhill, rank among the 10% most deprived in the UK.
“My job means everything to me. It means Independence. It gives me confidence in myself because I know other people believe in me.” very limited training and work opportunities available in our area for Learning Disabled adults. Holly.
Work provides a framework to all of our lives. In addition to income, work brings stability, a sense of purpose and social contact. Disabled people should not be excluded
Our Work Training programme provides the skills needed to find paid work. These include a mix of practical, social and organisational skills. We take a maximum of 20 learning disabled adults each day. Participants are collected from home in our minibus. Each person has an individual programme which reflects their needs and aspirations. At the farm trainees work with our animals, horticulture project, cooking, woodland management or craft. Enterprise is at the heart of our work and our Rangers sell what they create which provides opportunities for working with the public to develop customer service skills. We currently open 4 days per week and have 80 places. Our Project Leader plans the work, sets goals for our beneficiaries and monitors progress. We also have 4 trained Support Workers, an apprentice and a team of 12 regular volunteers.
Unlike other day care providers Little Gate Farm does not see itself simply as a place where learning disabled adults can pass the time in a safe environment. We have a clear goal to provide the skills, independence and self-confidence necessary to find paid employment. Underlying all our work is our mission to change the way that learning-disabled adults are perceived in society and by employers in particular.
So what do we want to do?
Through investment in our potting, field production, polytunnel, and composting systems we seek to raise the productivity and dependability of our output, make improved use and cycling of farm resources, improve the work experience for our trainees, and contribute to Little Gate’s mission.
We plan to convert all field plots – existing and new – into 30cm raised beds using durable certified timber. Raised beds improve accessibility for our trainees, and allow soil to be worked under most conditions using reduced tillage. Both sites will be fenced against rabbits and livestock, and plots will be netted at critical points of the season.
In the existing polytunnel, we will add solar-powered ventilation and irrigation systems to better regulate temperature and watering. Beyond improved productivity, this has the added benefit of making the polytunnel more comfortable for working during the warm summer months. Permanent staging will be added for potting and growing of stock, also linked to the irrigation system.
A composting system will be constructed that brings the farm’s animal manure, kitchen waste and plant material into a three-bin system that produces high quality potting compost and soil improver.
‘I have learned how to cook and how to grow vegetables and flowers at the farm which we can sell.’ Jo
‘Little Gate Farm has been brilliant for my daughter. It has been so good for her to be able to get a proper job and earn her own money. She is so much more confident than she used to be. Thank you.’ Parent of a young adult with learning disabilities.
‘I just wanted to say thank you for the last four weeks. James has thoroughly enjoyed himself and I would be very interested in any further opportunities you can offer him. This is exactly the kind of experience James can cope with and enjoy.’ Parent of a young adult with learning disabilities