The Tuppenny Barn Project
Speaker: Maggie Haynes
Date: 28th November
Following a successful A.G.M. during which the Committee was re-elected, we had a very interesting and well illustrated presentation from Maggie Haynes, all about her organic small holding at Southbourne.
Maggie told us that after 21 years of service with the British Army Intelligence Corps, she left the Army to carry out consultancy work before establishing Tuppenny Barn Organics in 2005, Click here to visit the Tuppenny Barn website. She started the project due to the lack of availability of local organic fruit and vegetables, coupled with a passion to teach children how to grow produce without the use of artificial inputs, chemicals or pesticides. She is a member of the Soil Association.
The project operates as a green and ethical not for profit company and tries to be kind to nature.
Maggie’s talk was in four sections covering:
I. History of the project
II. Areas of interest
IIII. Future of the project
The site of 2.4 acres was purchased in 2004 and to start a small flock of Jacobs sheep was run on the land. Native hedge trees were planted to thicken up the existing hedges and rabbit protection added. The existing barn was cleared of brambles and green oak sleepers obtained for the 12 raised beds. The beds were dug over and crushed concrete was used underneath the wood chip paths and the first crops of green manure grown. School children from Chidham School were involved from the first on a partnership basis.
In January 2006, 15 fruit trees were planted and there are now 135 fruit trees in the orchard including apples, pears, plums, cherries, quince and a mulberry. A wild flower meadow was sown but this has now gone. There is a pond with aquatic creatures that the children find fascinating and they now have nine bee hives.
Maggie has found that boys love bees for some reason. The project has had two good harvests of honey. Other creatures such as slowworms, ducks, moles and dragon flies are also seen, and a jenny wren nests in a kiwi plant.
Soft fruit is grown in the fruit cage and the solar greenhouse is used to extend the vegetable growing season. The plants are blanketed with straw mulch which also helps retain moisture. Pupils from a North Portsmouth school helped make a greenhouse with 1500 plastic bottles. A produce shop is run in a newly installed portakabin open Thursday and Friday, and once a month they sell their produce at Farmer’s Markets. Produce includes preserves and juices as well as fruit and vegetables.
Maggie also told us about the courses they run for children and adults, inside for art and poetry for children and wreath making for adults and outside for the medicine garden and use of herbs and hedgerow plants for example.
Maggie uses the “no dig” method of cultivation which involves growing the crop, harvesting, adding more manure/compost to the bed and replanting. Maggie told us the top four inches of soil has the most nutrition. Composting is critical to her philosophy; there are composting bays and one wormery and the worm casts are used as compost as well.
There is also a rain water harvesting system. Some living willow fences have been installed and the flowers are used in bouquets from the cutting garden. Herbs are used to edge the raised beds and sweet peas and nasturtiums grown for insect control.
A new Education Building is in the process of construction which will have a teaching area including a workshop, a plants and produce area and a local arts and crafts display space. There will also be a veranda workspace and a cookery area based on the fork to fork principle. A Green Gym is also being planned to do between 1 and 4 hours a week practical conservation or gardening work.
The building is circular in plan, has straw bale walls and a wood shingle roof. It looks stunning! Maggie’s talk was inspirational and shows what a determined and committed woman can do in a few short years.