My long-time colleague and friend, Jake, recently spoke at the inaugural TEDx Bath Conference. He joined an array of accomplished speakers in Bath Abbey, challenging hearts and minds on a range of different topics, under the theme: ‘Light Up the Future’.
Many of the speakers spoke about the importance of Place and Jake reminded us of the synergy of Place plus People and Purpose, adding his own magic of Positivity – one of the Jamie’s Farm values. He distilled the essence of transformation, why children who visit the farm can change, grow in courage, in determination, in trust, and find their own sense of purpose or motivation. I was inspired to revisit some of the key elements he spoke of that foster positive change.
Theme One: Wide Horizons
It’s an unusually warm and beautiful Autumn day today and groups of children are about on the various James’s Farms. All are blessed with beautiful settings and long views that melt into the distance of wide horizons. We so often see a child stop and stare, drinking in the beauty, the peace, recognising with a sense of wonder that this is free to all. For many of us, this is what we seek on a holiday, through travel. We often reinvent our own personal horizons through experiencing that sense of awe, of feeding the soul, of being brought ‘out of ourselves’ and everyday worries and preoccupations. Wider horizons become internal and external, the sense of the possible extends into the distance. Bringing children into the countryside enables this dreaming, reimagining, this more expansive being.
Theme Two: The Value of Farming
When Jake spoke about farming, I saw afresh the unique value of working together, in teams to create an outcome that could not be so harmonious if attempted alone. Farming for us isn’t just ‘an activity’. It has purpose. It is a real job with real outcomes. Additionally, the animals in farming create for children a sense of responsibility in their own guardianship, care and nurture. For once, they are further up the food chain than those they are helping. Animals, unlike adults, have never let them down, and so it becomes easier for the children to show their softer, kinder selves. Children have to build resilience working on the farm. They don’t like the mess and smells but overcome this distaste for the greater good of the animals. They may not like the weather but go remarkably willingly to do the tasks that need to be done. The animal’s dependence on the child motivates them, feeds their sense of self.
Theme Three: A Sense of Belonging
The community at the farm is the shared and joined up family that children yearn for. They get to feel a belonging, a membership of something they feel positive about. They get to feel a snug fit, a better shape in a system that does not need to scapegoat them. They get support from all ages, peers and adults alike. They learn to share their inner thoughts, to trust and be open, become more real and in this, more energetically present, listening attentively as well as sharing.
As part of the Farm, we are fortunate I know. We have privilege of choices that many people don’t. We work in a beautiful place, with great people, enjoy the purpose of the job and have a sense of positivity for changing young lives for the better. As I write this, I feel uneasy, fearful of it sounding smug, guilty of privilege. I then remember a girl from Hackney telling me with excitement on a follow-up visit that she and her group of friends meet each weekend in a park and walk, talk, picnic and enjoy the nature and peace of less busy places. I remember the quotes from the videos made for the children each week, including this one: ‘I’ve been much calmer here, I haven’t lost my temper. Just breathing this nice fresh air, clean, no pollution like London; with all the technology and the high buildings and killing mother nature.’ I remember the headmistress of a school in Bristol saying that 70% of her pupils had not gone more three miles from their homes and never seen the city centre, the river, the dock. And then, I believe again in the value of widening horizons.
Written by Tish Feilden, Co-Founder and Lead Therapist