With the rural sector facing both challenges and opportunities in the coming years we look at one individual who has taken a very different approach to diversification.
Over the past few years, George F. White have been delighted to support a number of awards across the region. We have been proud to learn about, and meet, many outstanding individuals and businesses in the rural sector.
From established traditional farming businesses through to diversification projects, and even individuals beginning their journey, the experience of being involved in regional awards, meeting the faces behind the stories, is a fascinating insight into the breadth and depth of skills and entrepreneurial spirit on our doorstep.
In early 2018 we were delighted to be part of the judging team for the Northern Farmer Awards, through our sponsorship of the Outstanding Achievement Award. Following many hours of deliberation amongst the knowledgeable and experienced panel, the winners were decided upon.
Whilst all those shortlisted, and of course the eventual winners, each are worthy of individual praise, there was one entry that stood out from the rest… that was Denys Fell who runs a farm near Hull in East Yorkshire.
Denys farms approximately 270 acres, mixing both organic arable and livestock in addition to fruit and nut trees, potatoes and cut flowers. However, it is not his endeavours in growing wheat or managing the flock of 200 sheep that stood out, but rather his diversification project, a community care centre based on Densholme Community Care Farm which really captivated the judges.
Denys saw the impact of the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001 and was determined to help farmers struggling with loneliness, isolation and mental health issues, but he wasn’t really sure how.
Almost a decade ago, he invited three young men with profound mental health issues, living in a local care home, to visit the farm to help plant potatoes. Denys immediately saw the benefits of how the farm could provide assistance to those with disabilities, mental health issues, learning difficulties or suffering from addictions. The seed was planted.
Denys set up Densholme Community Care Farm, separate to his farming business, as a social enterprise which now employs ten people and looks after over 70 students per day. All the students have disabilities, mental health issues or learning difficulties and attend for up to four days per week on an entirely voluntary basis.
Denys is incredibly proud of the success of the project; how it has allowed the students to develop friendships, learn new skills and visibly grow in confidence.
It was telling that, for the Outstanding Achievement Award, the judging panel were unanimous in Denys being the winner. It was certainly no surprise on the night when he went on to pick up the Northern Farmer of the Year Award.
Diversification is a topic of significant debate at the moment with Brexit likely to bring about both new challenges and opportunities for those in all business sectors, but particularly rural enterprises. Understandably with much focus being on the efficiency and profitability of such businesses, it is all the more reason that the project undertaken by Denys Fell stood out above many impressive stories from all of the nominations.
To learn more about Denys Fell and the Densholme Community Care Farm, click here.