Like many parents, mum-of-two Maggie Haynes was frustrated by the lack of organic veg available locally for mid-week mealtimes, so she began looking for a place to grow her own. But unlike most budding gardeners – she began growing for her community too.
On old pasture off a busy road at Tuppenny Barn Organics in West Sussex her idea took root and today it nourishes the community with wheelbarrow loads of home grown goodness.
“I didn’t want to feed my children with anything covered in pesticides and chemicals and I was passionate about how good food should be produced, so I knew the only way was to produce it myself,” says Maggie.
In the army intelligence core for 21 years, it’s was a world away from what she was used to. “I had no practical gardening experience – a lot of people said I must be crazy!” says Maggie. “But when I left the army I was ‘feisty and fit’ – good for digging – and passionate about showing people how good food should be produced. Thirty to 40 years ago food was fresh, not mass-produced like now, with the emphasis on quality not quantity.”
To call Tuppenny Barn, based in Main Road, Southbourne, a veg patch is therefore vastly understating what this special place offers. Over the last 10 years, since it was set up by Maggie and friend Rebecca Theed (now site manager), the two acres has been used as an outdoor classroom for school visits and workshops – showing children how to grow, eat well and take care of the planet – wild food walks, wine courses and even green weddings. Maggie is also keen to inspire communities to grow and cook their own food, and holds a regular Tuppenny Jam Club, as well as pop-up restaurants and cookery courses.
At the heart of Tuppenny Barn is a unique education centre for adults and children which, when completed, will provide a year-round, weatherproof focal point for talks, classes and all kinds of events. It is currently (until 25 October) the subject of a Crowdfunding appeal.
“We’ve raised a staggering £280,000 so far but we need another £20,000 before October 25 this year to see it to fruition,” she says. “With people’s help we hope to be fully fledged by spring.”
“It is a labour of love,” adds Maggie. “We want to be self sustaining so we don’t have to rely on grants and we want to become a beacon of sustainability, a place other people can come to for advice about how to grow and live, naturally.”