1991 – EEC Funding
Shropshire County Council, keen to make the most of the innovative idea of farming for people with learning disabilities, sought external funding for the project. In October 1991 the European Social Fund of the EEC (now the EU) gave a grant of £57,770.
Farm Shop opened
An outlet was needed for the fruit, vegetables and eggs that were being produced. As there was no greengrocer in Ditton Priors village, the obvious solution was to open a farm shop on site. At the time, this was a new concept, as it was before widespread diversification in farming which has seen farm shops springing up all over the country.
1990s – Christmas Fair
Joining in local community events has always been very important to us, so from the earliest days we have taken part in as many of the Ditton Priors village celebrations as possible. This photo shows our stall at the village's annual Christmas Fair, which was held in the old village hall until the new hall was built.
2003 – Cookbook
To celebrate and promote the wide range of Oak Farm produce, a recipe book, Oak Farm on a Plate! was produced for sale in the Farm Shop and in the associated Tea Room, which had just been refurbished (it is now The Willows Café). Leading British chef Shaun Hill, then proprietor of The Merchant House Michelin-starred restaurant in Ludlow, was kind enough to take an interest in the project and wrote the preface.
2004 – Royal visit
Everyone at the farm was very excited and honoured when HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, visited. There was a lot of hard work to prepare for the royal visitor, making sure that everything was clean and tidy – or at least as much as it could be on a working farm! On arrival the princess was presented with a posy, then had a guided tour of the farm and planted a tree in the front garden.
2010 - 20th birthday
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – and Oak Farmers love a party! So we decided to have a really big party to celebrate the first 20 years of the Oak Farm day service. As there were so many people there, we had to have a huge cake, to make sure everyone got a piece.
2010 - WI Jam Festival winner
Making and selling jams and chutneys from the fruit and vegetables grown on the farm is a big part of our work. When the National Federation of Women’s Institutes decided to hold the first National Real Jam Festival it was suggested that we should enter. In November 2010 a pot of our blackcurrant jam was sent down to Denman College, and we were over the moon to hear that we had won the Cottage Industry class. The WI judge’s comment on our jam was just one word: “Perfect!”.
15.11.11 - CIWM award
The Chartered Institution of Waste Management runs highly-respected national award schemes, including one for recycling projects. Oak Farm is dedicated to re-cycling and re-using everything possible – there is more information about this on the Aims and Community pages. On 15th November 2011 we were very proud to be awarded the title Community Recycling Champion of the Year for Oak Farm’s Community Composting Scheme.
2012 Holiday at Saintes, France
In June 2012 a group of us flew to Bordeaux for a week’s holiday at the Château Fief Gallet. We had a wonderful time, visiting the local market, the Hennessey brandy distillery, and the pretty little village of Talmont sur Gironde. At the château we swam in the pool, had barbeques, played card games and watched the wildlife.
July 2012 – MP’s visit
2013 – National Recycling Awards
Spring 2013 brought the news that we were finalists in the National Recycling Awards.
January 2014 – Jam Hut
The arrival of our new portacabin kitchen meant that all the cooking of our jams and chutneys, and our baking, could be done in a proper facility, instead of in the main common room kitchen. We christened it The Jam Hut, and people have very kindly donated all sorts of equipment for it.
May 2014 – Shropshire Women’s Institutes
Our manager, Stuart Toulson, started giving talks to local WIs a few years ago, and they were always kind enough to make a donation to OFFA in lieu of a fee. Then Stuart was invited to be a speaker at the annual meeting of the Shropshire Federation of Women’s Institutes, held at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury. He was so well received that an impromptu retiring collection totalled over £650 for OFFA!
November 2014 – Container storage
Lack of storage space has been a problem for some time, not improved when our old Dutch barn was demolished because it was leaning like the tower of Pisa. In November James’ parents very kindly arranged for us to have two containers, which were parked on the site of the demolished barn. Now we have secure storage for our mowers, garden furniture, etc.
2015 - 25th Birthday
Lots of celebrations have been going on in Oak Farm’s Silver Jubilee year, especially our huge birthday party in July. There was another superb cake, of course!
At the same time, big changes are happening behind the scenes, as Shropshire Council have given the farm to the Ditton Priors Community Land Trust, who are now our landlords, so we really do belong to the village. Now we are looking forward to seeing what the next 25 years brings.