Abberton social farmer wins latest Community Hero award
- Credit: Archant
A farm in Essex is using their animals and practices therapeutically, helping those with dementia and learning disabilities to make a difference in their community.
Ellie Goff, founder of Community Interest Company Wellies-On, has shared her and her husband Warren’s Abberton farm with schools, NHS wards and care homes across the region.
After 13 years of caring for the animals and helping thousands with their physical, mental and emotional health, Mrs Goff is being recognised as an East of England Community Hero.
Ellie said: “There is something very humbling about working with everyone here - many of them have bought such joy to the farm.
“We often hear how much of a difference we make in people’s lives but they make a huge difference in our lives too.
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“Those people take those experiences and spread the word about what we do, that ripple effect is wonderful.”
Previously a teacher, Ellie left to form Butterfly Lodge Education in 2005, later becoming the CIC Wellies On.
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She and Warren live on the farm with their three children, 11-year-old Xabien, seven-year-old Araijana and four-year-old Marleia, and their horses, ponies, goats, pigs, chickens, guinea pigs, cats and dogs.
“I’ve never witnessed a poor interaction with our animals,” said Mrs Goff.
“Even if it looks like someone has not gotten something positive out of it, you can see them process something difficult that they are feeling.
“That’s the little bit of magic they bring.”
Wellies-On is visited daily by co-farmers, people who work on the farm and care for the animals therapeutically.
The co-farmers, typically teenagers who are on the autistic spectrum or who have ADHD or anxiety disorders, often express themselves in a way that they have not felt comfortable doing in other forms of therapy.
Ellie said: “We have an approach here that lets people indirectly express the way they are feeling, which is often less intense than a one-to-one session.
“Animals take attention away from an individual and may make them feel more comfortable talking indirectly about their own problems.
“Horses in particular are very attuned to human emotions and their interaction with their herd can help people think about he way they interact with others and engage in their lives.”
Young people can even earn gateway qualifications through their time on the farm, allowing them to go on and study further in a wide range of subjects.
In between running a working farm and family life Ellie is applying for any pots of funding that will allow her and her team of 10 staff to reach new people and provide further support.
They already take animals off the farm to meet children in nearby schools and those living with dementia through their Flat Pack Farm initiative. Any further funding will enable them to reach others who are isolated or vulnerable in the community.
Ellie said: “I believe passionately in making a difference and talking to people about what we do.
“We’re not supposed to be here to work alone. We want to pull in people and businesses in the local area and spread the word so that we can benefit more people through interactions with our community.”
The farm has been working with the East of England Co-op to start conversations with people that are lonely as part of the Co-op Cuppa initiative.
For those that want to find out more about Wellies-On and the services that they provide or would like Ellie to speak at an event or to a business or group they can contact Ellie directly.
Tickets are also available for a carol service on December 7 at 6.30pm with all their animals in their barn.
Merlin the Shetland therapy pony will be making a feature appearance.