Meet the Consultancy Team


Farm, Permaculture and Wellbeing Consulting Team


Marina Brown-O’Connell – Director – Farmer - Trainer

Marina studied Horticulture at University, and her first full-time job was at the Horticultural Training workshop at Dartington Hall in Devon, working with young people. In the late 1980's she developed what is now School Farm from a bare field site using Permaculture design skills, and this was run organically, training up to 30 people per year. During 10 years at Dartington she studied Biodynamic techniques at Hood Manor and attended one of the first Permaculture Design courses in the UK with Andy Langford.  Marina took a lecturing post at Suffolk Agricultural College in 1996 to train in Sustainable Horticulture at FE and HE levels, including Biodynamic techniques and Permaculture design. During this period she completed a Masters degree at Essex University on Environment and Society.


Mark and Marina bought 83 Hungerdown Lane, adopted 2 children, and built The Apricot Centre in 2006. Having a 4-acre bare site, the orchards and intensive cropping areas were planned and laid out using Permaculture design techniques and treated with Biodynamic preparations, resulting in a beautiful and productive system. In 2014 discussions began with The Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) and The Dartington Hall Trust to secure a 999 year lease for the BDLT at Huxhams Cross Farm in Dartington. Key to the success of this process was Marina’s proven skill in farm development and her ability to successfully weave together permaculture and biodynamic methods to create sustainable farms.


Hosting visits and courses both in Essex before moving and in Devon has motivated clients to engage Marina and The Apricot Centre in consultancies to help people start or develop their own farms, community projects, school grounds and gardens. Marina has delivered farm consultancies for Oakbrook Farm in Stroud, Veduna Slovenia, Lush Cosmetics and Potsford Farm in Suffolk. She offers expertise in overall farm design patterns as well as the nitty gritty of orchard layouts, planting plans, polytunnels and complex irrigation systems.


Bob Mehew - Director – Permaculture Teacher and Designer – Project Manager

Bob Mehew is a project delivery specialist and permaculture practitioner with 22 years of experience in consultancy services and project management. Between 1992-2007 Bob developed and delivered training courses in project management, business analysis and software development processes. From 2011-2014 Bob worked at Essex County Council (ECC) as a project manager helping to deliver its Transformation Programme to save £300 million to address a funding gap created by recession and the Government’s austerity programme. This involved handling large complex programmes, managing challenging stakeholders and proactively engaging in risk management.


Since 2009, Bob has been exploring the potential for alternative career opportunities that have more beneficial social impacts in sustainable contexts. An interest in permaculture progressed into studying for a Diploma in Applied Permaculture. Bob has worked on designs for residential spaces, a farm and non-land based systems such as teaching and personal health management. Bob started to work with The Apricot Centre in 2012 as a trainer assisting in the delivery of the Permaculture Design Course, and in 2014 became a Director at The Apricot Centre to add capacity to its management function. Bob brings expertise in project management and delivery, organisation skills, business analysis, customer development and knowledge on the subject of sustainability.


Bob moved to Dartington in September 2015 and since then has been developing Huxhams Cross Farm, project managing and implementing: landworks (gates, farm tracks, fencing, services connections); buildings (large barn and training centre); poultry systems (150 chickens for eggs); agroforestry systems; veg bag scheme, growing and delivering fresh farm produce to 50 customers / week. In addition, Bob administers the business, with expertise in business planning, budgeting, payroll and client invoicing.


Mark O'Connell – Director – Child Psychotherapist

Mark has worked for many years with children and families as a Process-Oriented Psychotherapist and Child Psychotherapist. He has a strong interest in nature and sustainability, and the potential of a relationship with nature for a sense of wellbeing. He leads several clinical teams working therapeutically with looked after and adopted children and their carers in East Anglia and Devon. Mark’s work is founded in Process Oriented Psychology (Dr Arnold Mindell and colleagues –, complemented and informed by attachment, attunement, trauma work and neurological approaches.  He is a founding member of the Research Society for Process Oriented Psychology in the UK. Process Oriented Psychology or 'Process Work' is an awareness-based psychotherapeutic approach with roots in Jungian Depth Psychology, Taoism, working with nature and life processes.


For the past two decades he has been applying and developing process-oriented approaches in working with children and families. He has recently developed a Process Oriented Attunement approach to encourage and give skills for carer to attune to the nature and feedback of their looked after or adopted child. This approach has some parallels in respect of feedback when working with the land. Mark is an experienced practitioner, clinical leader and manager, with a good background in collaborative work working with principles of Deep Democracy with community teams, stakeholders and steering groups