Sky Badger hopes to grow high value crops near West Row to help disabled youngsters work

Members of the Sky Badger management team, from the left, Naomi Marek, Hayley Couldridge and Gina Inman ANL-150212-105958001

Members of the Sky Badger management team, from the left, Naomi Marek, Hayley Couldridge and Gina Inman ANL-150212-105958001

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An award winning charity is hoping to set up its own smallholding to help disabled youngsters earn while learning horticultural skills.

Sky Badger, which was a Guardian Charity Awards winner in 2014, is in the early stages of the project, looking at a site on Suffolk County Council owned farmland near West Row.

The site the charity Sky Badger wants to use. Barn owls nest in the brick building. ANL-151124-094343001

The site the charity Sky Badger wants to use. Barn owls nest in the brick building. ANL-151124-094343001

Sky Badger was started in 2011 by four mums with disabled children, mainly to bring together information for families in a similar position.

Chief executive Naomi Marek said: “The information was out there, but finding out about stuff is so difficult. We now help 1,200 people a day.”

By being an internet-based charity, they were also able to offer work from home for carers who would not otherwise be able to get a job.

But Naomi added: “Now our kids are growing up and trying to find a job for them is virtually impossible. You’ve got all these disabled kids who can’t do many exams so they are not only disabled but can’t get qualifications.

“Agriculture is a good environment for them because there’s lots of manual work and repetitive action, which they’re good at.”

But she said that while there are many examples of agricultural projects working with disabled people, few involve earning a wage.

“We’ve come up with the idea that if they’re growing high value crops, you have the capacity for them to get paid,” she said.

They are working with English Cut Flowers and a Bristol-based gourmet vegetable and salad grower on the project.”

But Sky Badger and the county council say the project must first carry out ecological surveys on the site, which has a derelict building in which barn owls have nested for 40 years.

Naomi says they are working with the RSPB in the hope that the owls can be provided with a nest site there that will also be safer for them than the deteriorating building. She said that if they cannot be safeguarded within the scheme ‘we’ll look at plan B’.

One of their children who has a deep interest and knowledge of conservation and wildlife will help professional ecologists studying the site.

The site is on a single track road that is ungritted and often muddy in winter, but Sky Badger only plan to use it in the spring and summer growing season.

Naomi said they plan to build a shed for storage and as shelter for those working on the site, where youngsters will have one-to-one or -two support.

For more information on the charity, visit http://skybadger.co.uk