The Tale of Tuppenny Barn, from Plot to Plate

The Tale of Tuppenny Barn, from Plot to Plate

by | Dec 1, 2021

In 2005, Maggie Haynes bought an abandoned field in Southbourne. Her vision was to create a smallholding that would provide the local community with organic food while engaging children with the environment. As Meerabai Kings reports sixteen years later, her initial vision is in full fruition…but Tuppenny Barn has not stopped growing!

Maggie’s vision resides in Tuppenny Barn, the UK-registered charity based on an organic smallholding on the West Sussex/Hampshire border. Tuppenny Barn is made up of two parts – the first, Tuppenny Barn Education, is a charity that encourages education in horticulture and sustainability, with a particular focus on helping vulnerable families and individuals. The second part, Tuppenny Barn Organics, oversees the business side of Tuppenny Barn, including their shop, veg bag scheme and venue hire, which are all carried out in the most sustainable ways possible.

We hear the word ‘sustainability’ a lot, and – without understanding what it really means – some people roll their eyes. All sustainability means is the capacity to which something can be maintained. In an agricultural context, this means “being kind to nature” – as director Maggie Haynes put it. By using no chemicals and leaving room for natural predators, the ecosystem at Tuppenny Barn flourishes and is able to sustain itself into the future. This is drastically different to typical agriculture, which exploits the soil and the environment and so brings long-term problems to the land.

From the business side of things, Tuppenny Barn’s organically grown produce fuels the weekly veg bag scheme and the Tuppenny Barn Shop which both connect the local community with local, fresh, organic produce. The veg bag scheme is reasonably priced, at £9 for a small bag and £12 for a large. Each week, Tuppenny Barn tell their customers what to expect in their bag, with ample time to cancel if that week’s pick doesn’t tickle their fancy. Currently, the shop is open on Thursdays between 9am and 4pm. Over the dreaded pandemic, Tuppenny Barn had hour-long queues for the Thursday shop, as every man and his dog wanted their paws on some Tuppenny produce. Now, business is still good, with 75 customers in the veg bag scheme and plans to open a permanent shop and café.

The Tuppenny Barn shop connects the community with other local providers, offering excellent trading opportunities for local companies such as Fresh From The Boat in Emsworth, and Rookery Farm in Bognor. In addition to stocking fruit and veg from Tuppenny Barn, the shop stocks local eggs, bread, fresh fish, honey, preserves, drinks, and tasty artisan bakes from local businesses.

Tuppenny Barn not only fulfils Maggie’s vision but now goes above and beyond it. With yoga, live music, quiz nights, art exhibitions and more on offer, Tuppenny Barn really does have something for everyone.

Visit the Tuppenny Barn Christmas Fair on the 12th of December between 12 and 4, where you will find a wealth of locals who have made, cooked, pickled, brewed, chiselled, crafted and baked their own goods. Or, book yourself in to a Tuppenny Barn festive wreath making workshop on the 3rd or 4th of December. You can also gather your best pub quiz team for the Tuppenny pub quiz on the 3rd of December – with Maggie herself behind the bar and delicious home-cooked grub made fresh! But Tuppenny Barn is more than a smallholding and more than a business. With a charity and business running simultaneously, Tuppenny Barn is much like a social enterprise – but what does that mean?

A social enterprise is an organisation that brings profit for the owner whilst also having a positive social, environmental, or even financial impact. For Tuppenny Barn, this means generating income whilst also protecting the environment and maximising the social wellbeing of the surrounding community. Tuppenny Barn has a huge focus on helping the most vulnerable people in our community – but who is that, exactly?

“Vulnerable” refers to those with mental health problems, physical and mental disabilities, or learning difficulties. It means disadvantaged families and children who rely on free school meals and benefits to get by. Tuppenny Barn works closely with local schools in which more than 10% of children are given free school meals. Funding from various local trusts allows the Tuppenny Barn charity to help these schools travel to Tuppenny Barn for school trips and workshops.

The team at Tuppenny Barn take pride in their workshops tailored to schools, nurseries and colleges. Popular workshops for younger children focus on growing, cooking, wildlife, sculpture, performance, sustainability, and even falconry, which was a sell-out hit earlier this year! The ever-popular ‘fork to fork’ workshops show children how to pick and cook vegetables, giving them ownership of the process. Teaching children about food from the fork in the ground to the fork on the plate.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, Tuppenny Barn has also provided meals and workshops to young carers who attend the Bourne Community College. These young carers, who have named themselves The Sunflowers, are as young as 11 and provide lifesaving care to disabled or unwell family members. Tuppenny Barn provides 40 young carers in the local community with fortnightly workshops which teach them how to grow food, press fresh apple juice, and even design wrapping paper. This is one of many ways in which Tuppenny Barn has brought sunshine into the lives of vulnerable children on the West Sussex/Hampshire border.

During the pandemic, Tuppenny Barn also provided organic food parcels to the 20 most vulnerable families in the local area, five of which had a young carer in the family. “Two of the main problems we see,” says Maggie “are food poverty and obesity.” The pandemic food parcels helped bring healthy and good quality food to families who would otherwise go without it.

Another cherished project at Tuppenny is Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, offered to people with mild to moderate mental health conditions. Now, with a recent partnership with StonePillow, Chichester’s largest charity helping the homeless, Tuppenny Barn offers horticulture therapy to homeless and vulnerable individuals. The horticulture therapy is such a rewarding and worthwhile venture that Tuppenny Barn takes on NHS referrals for vulnerable people in our society who need a safe place to nurture themselves. Social and Therapeutic Horticulture offers disadvantaged individuals a safe space to make friends, develop their social skills, and learn practical skills to build up their independence.

Other courses available for adults include free courses on inset days for teachers. These workshops equip Key Stage 2 and 3 teachers with a toolkit to teach students about plants, growing, healthy eating and healthy cooking.

Now, Tuppenny Barn is looking to expand and strengthen the fantastic activities it offers. Plans for a new shop, community café and covered classroom will increase the number of vulnerable individuals who can benefit from Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. Tuppenny Barn also plans to offer work experience and accredited training to 40 people with additional needs, to help them find their feet. Tuppenny Barn are working closely with Aspire Sussex, a social enterprise that seeks to enhance adult education in West Sussex. This collaboration will give Tuppenny Barn the ability to teach and award the City and Guilds Level 1 Horticulture. One client from the StonePillow scheme enjoyed their time at Tuppenny Barn so much that they are now enrolled on the Horticultural Skills course – a true success story!

The plans to develop Tuppenny Barn are all in line with both the UK’s strategic sustainability goals and the UN’s sustainable development goals. The shop, café and classroom have been designed by Grain Architecture, a Godalming-based firm who pride themselves on designing natural, compostable and low-carbon materials.

With the new plans, school visits will be able to increase by 20%, and the café will give locals a green and serene place to enjoy organic food and drink, as well as providing vulnerable people with more job and volunteering opportunities.

The Tuppenny team also hope that the new plans will also transform food deliveries to families in hardship. The café and permanent shop will also sustain Tuppenny Barn’s financial stability into the future, with less reliance on grants in order to keep the charity work running smoothly.

You can find Tuppenny Barn on the Main Road between Emsworth and Southbourne, and their website provides mounds of information about how they help the community. Pop by the shop on a Thursday to get your hands on some local organic goods.

All images in this story are © Tuppenny Barn.


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