New shop for farm that focuses on mental health

The Field of Dreams farm shop has moved to Woolpit. Pictured are Sue Smith, Mark Byford and Sue's granddaughter Amelia Crick

The Field of Dreams farm shop has moved offsite to nearby Woolpit. Pictured are Sue Smith, her partner Mark Byford and Sue's granddaughter Amelia Crick, seven, in the shop - Credit: Jess Coppins

A farm that launched a campaign to try and safeguard its future has moved its shop to a new location and has a link-up to support people's wellbeing.

Field of Dreams in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, now has a shop offsite at nearby Woolpit after owners Mark Byford and Sue Smith were offered a building there.

Sue Smith and her partner Mark Byford, who run Field of Dreams

Sue Smith and her partner Mark Byford, who run Field of Dreams - Credit: Jess Coppins

Earlier this year, the couple launched a campaign to save the farm as they feared it could be forced to close over a Planning Inspectorate ruling to make some changes to the site.

A spokesperson for Mid Suffolk District Council, the planning authority, said they continue to work positively with the owners of Field of Dreams "to reach a solution which secures the necessary planning compliance".

The farm shop at Woolpit stocks produce grown on the farm in Thurston

The farm shop at Woolpit stocks produce grown on the farm in Thurston - Credit: Jess Coppins

As well as having a new shop, the farm has linked up with the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to support people's wellbeing.

Through a project with an occupational therapy (OT) apprenticeship student from NSFT, anyone struggling with their mental health can come along for support through activities on the farm like animal care and gaining skills like mindfulness.

Inpatients from NSFT's Wedgwood unit in Bury St Edmunds are also visiting Field of Dreams - if they pass risk assessments - with staff to help them with their recovery journey as part of a pilot initiative. 

Field of Dreams launched a campaign for its future earlier this year

Field of Dreams launched a campaign for its future earlier this year - Credit: Field of Dreams

Ms Smith said: "Our shop has moved, brought on by the campaign. We were very lucky to be offered a solution as to where we sold our produce from the farm.

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"The farm itself is now a working farm. We are focusing on the provision, the animal care, growing, education, early years, mental heath and many other things. At the moment our main focus is mental health."

Field of Dreams has supported many people over the years, for example through volunteering or work opportunities, and Ms Smith is hoping to reach people who are struggling who may not be in the system - or are yet to ask for help.

Field of Dreams is still appealing for donations of arts and crafts materials, which will support wellbeing on the farm

Field of Dreams is still appealing for donations of arts and crafts materials, which will support wellbeing on the farm - Credit: Field of Dreams

She said: "This may be something different that may take their fancy and could provide a perfect environment for them to heal and improve their way of life. 

"We are very aware of current affairs at the moment and would like to use the farm to offer support to anyone who feels they made need it.

"Lots of people's lives and confidence have been affected massively in the last couple of years, and we would like to help that. All ages and abilities are welcome."

Jenny Walton from the mental health trust is doing a placement at Field of Dreams Farm

Jenny Walton from the mental health trust is doing a placement at Field of Dreams Farm - Credit: Field of Dreams

Jenny Walton, from Tostock, is training to be a registered OT and is doing a University of East Anglia placement at the farm until Friday, November 12.

Miss Walton, 37, said being at the farm was calming and relaxing and offered purposeful activities that could benefit people with anxiety and/or depression.

Tracey Holland, lead nurse at West Suffolk Care Group at NSFT

Tracey Holland, lead nurse at West Suffolk Care Group at NSFT - Credit: Tracey Holland

Tracey Holland, lead nurse at West Suffolk Care Group, which is part of NSFT, said initial feedback from Wedgwood inpatients was they have all "hugely benefitted" from visiting the farm.

Field of Dreams farm shop has moved to nearby Woolpit

Field of Dreams farm shop has moved to nearby Woolpit - Credit: Jess Coppins

Ms Smith said the farm shop opened in Green Road, Woolpit, in June and had "just made such a massive difference to us in the sense we could develop it [Thurston site] into a working farm".

"Everything we grow goes to the shop," she said.

Jenny Walton and Sue Smith in the relaxation area at Field of Dreams

Jenny Walton and Sue Smith in the relaxation area at Field of Dreams - Credit: Field of Dreams

The polytunnel where the shop used to be is now a therapy area for relaxation, mindfulness and arts and crafts.

  • There is the chance to be involved in animal care, growing produce, creative activities, mindfulness and relaxation at Field of Dreams, in smaller or larger groups. Anyone who wants to get involved can contact Sue Smith on 07590 211124 or email her. Also contact her if you can help with donations, for example of arts and crafts materials and board games.
  • The farm is also holding an open week during October half-term and Jenny Walton will be there for most of it if anyone wants to come and have a chat.


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