Transforming Lives Through Farming

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How the Dorset charity Future roots is cultivating a new generation of resilient youths out of those abandoned by an inflexible system

Future Roots students are expected to participate in all aspects of farming

Registered social worker Julie Plumley grew up on a farm – 15 years ago she saw the potential of the farming environment for helping young people who were not coping in a main stream school environment.
Future Roots has now seen over 1,200 youngsters, aged from as young as 8 up to 18, through its gates since it began in 2008.

It’s not you
Julie is quick to point out that the young attendees aren’t the problem—it’s society’s lack of both understanding and flexibility toward their unique needs. ‘Young people come to Future Roots not because they are “naughty” or “bad,” but because they need a secure learning space where they can truly flourish,’ she says.
One of the charity’s notable collaborations is Branching Out, a project in association with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) that supports those who fall outside the criteria for Core CAMHS – referrals are strictly through CAMHS.
Julie believes that farming is a gateway which offers an alternative learning opportunity and prepares young people for future life.

Future work
Some of the youngsters who have attended Future Roots have themselves become farmers and thanks to the lottery funded Youth Ambassador programme young people who have attended Future Roots will be able to have their say about what things impacted most on their life in a positive and negative way. This will include what has worked, what they would have liked to happen and what they think might have worked for them, resulting in a book of life stories and a video. These materials will be used as training tools when approaching teachers, social workers, and youth workers.
The lottery has also funded Rural Remedies at Future Roots, which supports very young people from nine to 13 years who don’t have statutory intervention but are referred via families, teachers or other people who know them and feel they are struggling. As a result of Covid, the team at Future Roots is finding that there are many young people struggling and too anxious to even go out the door. The Rural Remedies work is around improving confidence, resilience and helping these young people to catch up.
The charity recently received two year funding for its Futures programme from the John Lewis partnership and the Police Crime Commissioners Fixing the Future Fund which is centred on supporting Future Roots young people into adulthood, assisting them into suitable work or training settings.
‘Over 17 years of work at Future Roots, we have demonstarted that farming can be one of the greatest learning opportunities and untapped health and social care services.’ says Julie. ‘It enables young people to become resilient, purposeful, confident, caring members of society, providing stability and direction.’

Julie believes in the innate benefits of simply learning to look after livestock

Director needed
Future Roots is currently on the hunt for a Deputy Director to increase the capacity of its management team and to help run a number of new projects that have developed over the past couple of years. If you’te inetrested, more info and full job description here.

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