About us

Where we work

Hemel Food Garden and Farm Shop

Hemel Food Garden supports young people and adults with learning disabilities by offering training and employment opportunities within a social enterprise setting. HFG grow and sell fresh produce e.g. fruit, vegetables and salads; poultry keeping; PAT testing; gardening design and maintenance; allotment makeovers; and growing and selling a wide range of plants. A significant focus is the large bedding contract we hold with Dacorum Borough Council to grow 90,000 plants.

What makes HFG innovative is that they do not just keep people entertained people like most day services do. They believe everyone should be given the opportunity to work. The team spend a lot of time working with individuals to find their skills and what they can do. They build their training and work experience around how to achieve paid employment in the area they choose.

The service offers a wide range of employment opportunities that people can try and then focus on the areas they want to. An example is offering an apprenticeship to a young man with a mild learning disability, he worked for HFG for 2 years learning to be a plantsman and gardener. He is now employed full time and manages the gardening contract or Northchurch Parish Council.

HFG has a café and farm shop on site selling organic, local, zero waste, high quality products. You will be served by a range of different trainee including at the till, your barista, waiter/waitress and these are just a few of the jobs available.

HFG also grows it’s own organic fruit, salad and vegetables and operates a veg box scheme. It breaks down barriers when customers buy a high end organic veg box from an adult with learning disability. They are often surprised and it adds to the purchase. People often perceive people with learning disabilities as children, always needing support etc. HFG challenges this by promoting the skills, presence and brilliance of the individual.

Activity Centre Berkhamsted

Our purpose built Activity Centre is situated amongst beautiful surroundings off Ivy House Lane in Berkhamsted. Trainees at the site develop their skills in a range of activities including site maintenance, planting and weeding, pruning and hedge cutting, creating new growing areas, cooking daily meals made from vegetables, salads and fruit grown on site, making jams and chutneys and creating craft products from willow and other natural products from the surrounding site.

We manage several different areas which surround the Centre including allotments, orchards, coppice and a conservation site. We grow a range of fresh fruit, herbs and vegetables all grown to organic standards which we sell to the public and use to make preserves and lunch for our trainees.

In recent years we have started beekeeping. We keep 100,000 honey bees and train vulnerable people to become beekeepers. The benefits are varied: therapeutic nature of beekeeping is especially good for people who are anxious; it promotes a strong and healthy bee population, and we harvest enough for us to sell and leave plenty for the bees to eat over winter.

Conservation 

For some years now, we have managed a grassland area of wildlife interest on our leased land at Sunnyside New allotments, which offers trainees the opportunity to practice conservation skills. This type of rough grassland is becoming increasingly scarce in this part of the country. Ecologists from Hertfordshire County Council and local wildlife trusts have visited this site which is rich in anthills, wildflowers and grasses, and where there is a healthy population of lizards, native snakes and excellent bird biodiversity.

Northchurch

This site has been transformed from allotment land and now consists of several poly tunnels, keder greenhouses, orchard areas, soft fruit area and the home for our free range chickens. A wide range of fruit, vegetables, herbs and plants are grown to organic principles and we have an onsite shop, run by our trainees with support from our staff. This sells our home grown produce, eggs, and craft items. We also run a Thursday morning stall to sell our produce on Berkhamsted High Street (outside W H Smith).

We have to continue to diversify in order to grow our business and to do this we plan to invest in our site at Northchurch.   We have recently taken on the lease for a small parcel of land which was attached to the site and this gives us an opportunity to try something new and exciting.  Currently the focus of the site is vegetable and fruit growing and caring for 350 chickens. Our plan for the site is to develop it into a destination where the following take place:

  • Farm animal care (a small number of livestock including goats and sheep) along with our chickens. This will provide therapeutic and practical skills for our client group as well as a popular place to visit for the public.
  • Horticultural activities including vegetable and fruit growing,
  • Upgrade our farm shop to make it more attractive to customers and to meet growing demand for our products including Vegetable Boxes, honey, preserves, apple juice
  • Build relations with the wider community by holding 2 events a year, with the themes of Food Growing and Animal Care
  • Become a school trip destination for St Marys Primary School offering educational/forest school sessions.

Commitment to Environmental Care

Earlier this year SRT set up an Environmental Sustainability Committee to ensure we are mindful of the impact we have on our sites and to make sure that we are taking all the steps we can to create a sustainable community.  This is led by employees across the sites and different work roles. The group is currently implementing a strategy and action plan to ensure good practice is in place at our Northchurch site:

  • We have replaced petrol tools with rechargeable battery tools, e.g. our strimmers, lawn mowers, chainsaws
  • We compost all our chicken waste and use it improve the soil for growing food
  • All materials used for e.g. our Vegetable Box Scheme are recyclable or compostable
  • We recycle all our plastic pots
  • We repair rather than replace everyday items
  • We recycle donated wood
  • We harvest all our rainwater for irrigation.
  • We grow everything to organic standards
  • We plant with horticultural diversity in mind to support the bee and wildlife population.

We work closely with the Kings Langley, Abbots Langley, Tring and Berkhamsted Transition groups. We grow food from Northchurch for the former’s markets stall and they are working with us at our Hemel Hempstead site to support us with our newly installed anaerobic digester. We plan to make a similar investment at our Northchurch site and want to install solar panels for heating and lighting for the whole site.

In summary we will continue and develop this good practice into our expanding service at our Northchurch site and look for ways to take this forward.