In 2012 the Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) approached The Dartington Hall Trust to purchase a small plot of land to set up a community-owned biodynamic farm. To date, over 150 people have invested in the purchase of the land and in the farm infrastructure.
The first tenant recruited by the BDLT to develop and run Huxhams Cross Farm was The Apricot Centre, then based in East Anglia where it had already developed a unique business model, combining a farm with a therapeutic well-being service for children and families. The Apricot Centre tenancy started in September 2015. The Apricot Centre is a Community Interest Company (CIC) whose main purpose is to cultivate sustainability in land, lives and livelihoods. We aim to create healthy systems in which nourish human health, respects community, and promotes diversity. After signing the first (15 year) tenancy of the newly created Huxhams Cross Farm with the Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT), The Apricot Centre (then based in East Anglia) undertook a Permaculture design development process to shape the new farm. At that stage it was simply six fields comprising 35 acres or 13 hectares of stubble fields without proper gates or fencing.
The first key staff member of The Apricot Centre team to arrive in Devon from East Anglia was Bob Mehew, who arrived in 2015 with a remit to project-manage the establishment of the new working farm. He began the conversion of the land to organic, a process completed with full Biodynamic status being awarded in 2018. Through targeted fundraising he found funds and / or materials to support the key tasks. He improved the fencing, co-ordinated the installation of the electrics and a mains water supply, the planting of the first 4,000 fruit trees and shrubs, applying agroforestry principles, and the soft fruit for the first season’s sales, working largely with local volunteers. He was improving the soil, building up the stock of chickens, welcoming a couple of page 1 of 8 cows, and preparing the infrastructure: a barn, a network of paths and tracks and four polytunnels, and purchasing tools and equipment. He began the crop/activity rotation on the farm to take forward the soil improvement strategy.
The full Apricot Centre team moved here from East Anglia in autumn 2017 with their farm implements and materials. The establishment of the farm’s activities has accelerated and more staff have been recruited. Now it is recognised as a Beacon Farm by the BDLT. As such, it is a farm that practises respectful and regenerative agriculture and as one that offers inspiration to others by its example. A new Training Centre building was completed in December 2018 facilitating the development of the wellbeing, educational and recreation activities on the farm. It is a low-cost, high performance eco-building based on a simple timber frame. It is super-insulated and breathable, mostly constructed from natural materials and using a passive solar design. It houses a food processing kitchen, flexible training space, offices and toilet. Its building was funded jointly by the BDLT with a 40% grant from LEADER. It was built by a local company called TerraPerma. The Apricot Centre now pays a rental for the space to BDLT.
The Apricot Centre intentions are to:
1) produce healthy local food for the community, applying biodynamic ecological farmland management, as the highest quality system for soil sustainability for long term farming, for food security and health of people and planet.
2) be resilient in the face of climate change, supporting biodiversity, sequestering carbon, reducing the use of carbon rich products and reducing waste.
3) host a well-being service, mainly for Adopted and Looked After Children.
4) create opportunities for ‘right livelihood’, paying a fair wage to its workers.
5) engage in and support relevant reflection research and dissemination about its work, having a focus on promoting its methods and processes.
Our team of wonderful staff has grown over the last year. The Apricot Centre now employs 9.5 full time equivalent jobs. The team includes very hard working and skilled staff; Mark O'Connell, Rachel Phillips, Amy Worth, Bob Mehew, Dave Wright, the foraging Ross Perrett, Richard Andrews, 3 wonderful apprentices; Rachel Bohlen, Elisabeth Ziegler and Freddie Job, and Marina O'Connell. We also have a wonderful team of freelance mentors, therapists and psychologists both in East Anglia and in Devon. page 2 of 8 Our Advisory committee is made up of Anne Phillips, Anne Marie Mayer, George Sobel, Gabriel Kaye, Wendy Cook, Rafael Pompa, David Goodborne and Kanada Gorla.
Highlights of the 2019 season:
2019 saw the farm occupy the whole of the 13 hectare site and near the end of its development phase. We re-visited and updated our business plan and have given ourselves a very well deserved "congratulations" for realising the original vision of the farm in just over 4 years of hard work.
The year came with challenging weather again, but with our rainwater collection system now completed and better understanding of the soil and cropping patterns, we were more resilient, with only the root crops struggling.
In pursuit of our aim to reduce the use of carbon rich products WE DO NOT USE nitrogen based fertilisers, pesticides, plastic bags or long distance transport of our food.
In 2019 we fully occupied the whole farm for the first time, as we draw near the end of the development phase. We upped the vegetable crop area by about 20% in 2019 and added 2 new polytunnels. We tried some new crops, including mooli, salsify, melon and aubergine. The ‘intensive’ area was also expanded significantly, enabling us to satisfy demand for succession sown crops like coriander, radish and lettuce. We doubled salad production to almost 500kg per year. We have about 50 - 60 box customers per week, a market stall in Totnes taking £600- £1000 per week and an online shop. We have increased retail sales by approximately 10%. We have a small wholesale round as well, to local shops and restaurants. The chicken flock was increased to 150 and we have a waiting list for the eggs. The soft fruit area thrived with the bushes coming into production. We didn’t have any top fruit due to the cold spring weather. We grew ‘Population YQ wheat’ for flour and beer. with a yield of 6 tonnes from 6 acres. This is the first full year we have been fully certified Biodynamic.
More than 30% of the farmland has been put into wildlife conservation, with conservation grazing by two cows on 3 hectares for wild orchids and hedgerows managed for bird and bee life.
We are working towards creating a closed loop system for the management of ‘waste’ associated with the business. In 2019 we began to develop the food processing arm of the business, with the purchase and delivery of the food processing equipment for juicing and pasteurizing and dry storage, aiming towards zero waste. We have been trialing chutneys, relishes and ferments, alongside the jams and compotes. Our chickens and cows are also fed with ‘waste’/surplus vegetables. We have reviewed our packaging and use paper punnets, recycled plastic punnets, non-single use plastic, paper or no packaging as much as possible.
We developed a new format for apprentice training, offering a full year of work experience mentoring, a place on all of our training courses, £50 training budget per week plus free vegetables and eggs. We started 3 young people in October 2019. We also ran
An agroforestry course: 3 days
Our second permaculture design course: 12 days
A biodynamic course approved by the Biodynamic college: 4 days
An Eco-nomics course: 2 days
We started and developed a new consultancy service to design, support and help set up similar agroecology farms in the region. In 2019, our first year, we worked with Trenow Fields in Penzance, Birch Farm in Woolsery, North Devon, Oakbrook farm in Stroud and Lush Cosmetics’ new farm.
Dartington Mill The Apricot Centre has jointly started the Mill with the Almond Thief and Old Parsonage Farm. Based at Old Parsonage Farm, a new mill has arrived and is being installed. This will mill the YQ wheat to make Biodynamic YQ flour that will be sold by the Apricot Centre. The Wheat from Old Parsonage Farm will be milled to make a local loaf at the Almond Thief. page 4 of 8 How the Apricot Centre related to its world in 2019 as a BDLT Beacon Farm
Staff have attended and presented at:
○ The Biodynamic Conference ○ LWA House of Commons event ○ Seed Festival at Hawkwood College ○ Permaculture Convergence ○ The Green Gathering ○ Shambala Festival
Social Media his continues to grow. We have an online presence on Facebook (www.facebook.com/huxhamscross) with 1,600 followers, Instagram with 650 followers and Twitter (@HuxhamsCrossFrm) with 360 followers.
We welcomed almost 1,000 visitors to the farm in 2019, with volunteer days, School Visits and an Open Farm Sunday event.
The ACWS continues to offer therapeutic and mentoring services through East Anglia and Devon for children, young people and families. We try to offer professional therapies in a non-clinical setting with creativity and nature at the basis of much of the work. Disturbances often contain the seed of their own resolution and thus we consider the ‘Edge of Potential’ a helpful ethos in approaching our support to young people. Additionally to therapies, we have also developed a mentoring approach, which has been successful in supporting young people struggling in mainstream education.
In 2019 we worked with 168 families over almost 4,000 hours of therapy and mentoring, across East Anglia and Devon. This has more than doubled our work in the last 12 months. ● We offer educational services in East Anglia and are developing this service in Devon.
We offer therapeutic services in East Anglia and in Devon.
We are developing new services in both Devon and East Anglia.
We are applying for OFSTED registration to improve our professional offer.
PROFIT AND LOSS ACCOUNT FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 JUNE 2019
2018 (£) 2019(£)
TURNOVER 347,315 474,779
Other income 1,212 1,969
Cost of sales (178,285) (219,482)
Staff costs (143,898) (209,562)
Depreciation (12,565) (15,141)
Other charges (37,652) (48,739)
PROFIT / (LOSS)
BEFORE TAXATION (23,873) (16,176)
Tax 7,827 0
NET PROFIT / (LOSS) (16,046) (16,176)
30 JUNE 2019 2018 (£) 2019 (£)
FIXED ASSETS 37,694 46,928
Current assets 47,600 1 11,364
Creditors (54,326) (144,614) (Amounts falling in one year)
ASSETS (6,726) (33,250)
LIABILITIES 30,968 13,678
Accruals and deferred
income (5,114) (4,000)
NET ASSETS 25,854 9,678
RESERVES 25,854 9,678
FINANCIAL REPORT FOR YEAR ENDED JUNE 2019
The Apricot Centre turnover continues to increase year on year. The Farm income sales have increased by 25%. We have also increased the amount of produce grown on the farm rather than bought in. The Wellbeing services are flourishing with a 43% increase in turnover. Our income breakdown is as follows:
2018 (£) 2019 (£)
Farm sales and income 64,917 81,429
Wellbeing services 271,540 388,261
Grants and subsidies 10,858 5,089
We have invested nearly £9,000 in assets and equipment and this has increased further in the current financial year.
The loss on the accounts includes £15,000 of depreciation on assets owned by The Apricot Centre.
The loss before depreciation is about £1,000
. We have changed the way we account for our biggest expense, the payments to therapists and mentors in the wellbeing team, and this has resulted in an increase in staff costs in the profit and loss account and creditors on the balance sheet. We have effectively included an extra 2 months of payments due to correcting the way we account for expenses paid in one year but relating to another.
We took out some short term loans from local supporters of The Apricot Centre to help us with cash flow issues due to the timings of payments needing to be made compared to payments being received. There is also a £16,000 VAT liability within the balance sheet, which was not present in the previous year. This is because the VAT position changed on the wellbeing work at the start of the 2019 financial year and the majority of the wellbeing turnover is now subject to VAT