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School allotment project needs inspirational farmers to help students grow

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 October 2020 | UPDATED: 08:21 16 October 2020

Students growing food on their allotments as part of The Papillon Project, which works with secondary schools and colleges across Norfolk. Picture: The Papillon Project

Students growing food on their allotments as part of The Papillon Project, which works with secondary schools and colleges across Norfolk. Picture: The Papillon Project

The Papillon Project

More Norfolk farmers are being urged to join an “inspirational” school allotments project which is helping connect a new generation with food and nature.

The Papillon Project founder Matt Willer (left) and farming liaison officer Jeremy Buxton, of Eves Hill Farm near Reepham. Picture: The Papillon ProjectThe Papillon Project founder Matt Willer (left) and farming liaison officer Jeremy Buxton, of Eves Hill Farm near Reepham. Picture: The Papillon Project

The Papillon Project promotes sustainable living and environmental awareness among young people by encouraging them to grow food for themselves and their local community.

The charity has grown from its flagship pilot scheme at Reepham High School, and is also now working with secondary schools, academies and sixth-form colleges in Litcham, Dereham, Sprowston, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, Hethersett, Long Stratton, Old Buckenham and Diss.

Jeremy Buxton of Eves Hill Farm at Booton, helped establish the award-winning project in Reepham and now, after becoming the charity’s farming liaison officer, he hopes to persuade other farmers to get involved with educational allotments in their area.

“For a lot of farmers in these areas, their children are actually at these schools so, the way I look at it, it’s about building relationships within the community,” he said. “The children that are getting involved in the allotment project are our future customers – they buy our food, they eat our produce, so the fact they are being taught about quality food production, permaculture, even livestock management – they could potentially be our future employees as well. “It is that grass roots thing of engaging people in food. Everything I am interested in as a farmer – producing food, the environment, nature, wildlife conservation and climate change – they are learning about all that in these allotment projects.

Students growing food on their allotments as part of The Papillon Project, which works with secondary schools and colleges across Norfolk. Picture: The Papillon ProjectStudents growing food on their allotments as part of The Papillon Project, which works with secondary schools and colleges across Norfolk. Picture: The Papillon Project

“The idea of getting the farmers involved is for machinery and organic fertilisers, and also just to give help and advice – and materials as well. I always think of upcycling anything from our farm, before I take it to the tip I always think of the allotment project first to say: can they upcycle this to use as part of their growing equipment? Even if it is just pallets, they can make composting crates out of pallets. They are so enterprising.”

Mr Buxton added that he had recently taken on a 16-year-old apprentice whose interest in agriculture had been sparked by the Papillon Project at Reepham.

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Matt Willer, projects lead and founder of The Papillon Project, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Norfolk farmers like Jeremy Buxton who give up their precious time to help The Papillon Project create and develop school allotments across Norfolk.

“Many Norfolk farmers have greatly aided, and continue to aid, what we do in secondary schools and colleges from donating manure to bringing along heavy machinery to help us clear waste land in preparation for new school allotments that would have otherwise taken us weeks and weeks to clear.

The Papillon Project founder Matt Willer on the school allotment site at Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: The Papillon ProjectThe Papillon Project founder Matt Willer on the school allotment site at Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: The Papillon Project

“Farmers play a key role in our charitable work alongside many other ‘enrichers’ such as the Norwich and Norfolk Horticultural Society, Norfolk Gardens Trust through to individual allotment holders in city of Norwich all of whom offer advice or help us on the ground to aid our efforts with inspiring young people aged 11-18 to learn to grow their own food at school

“It’s all about a collective and conscientious effort to ready the next generation to lead more sustainable and happier lives, as being on a school allotment is also about boosting mental wellbeing too.”

• For more information, see The Papillon Project website.


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