Having worked as a secondary school teacher, I am used to the idea of data harvesting. Checking through progress made against set government formulas based upon a child’s social and economic background, it was sometimes all too easy to forget the human stories behind the data.  As such, one of the most human and enjoyable elements of teaching for me was being a form tutor to the same group for several years; getting to know my tutees, their families, stories and experiences as they saw the world.

That’s not to say that number crunching isn’t useful; at Trill it helps us place perspective on the courses and events we run, and illustrates progress towards our aim of getting people out to enjoy learning from the land. Over the year so far, we have hosted 45 courses, retreats and events, with up to 700 people attending.

We have also had multiple visits from local schools, with pupils spending time enjoying learning about the farm, the food we grow, the wildlife we encourage and the diverse landscape we manage organically.

On beekeeping with Julian Barnard
 “I’ve loved every minute from the location and tutor, who was fantastic, to lunch which was beautiful. Thank you for a lovely day, it went too quickly.”

On herbal medicine with Anne McIntyre
“Thank you for a wonderful weekend in a calming, restorative and uplifting setting. Thank you to all involved in making sure we had a great time and looking after us so well”.

On carpentry with Ruth Thomson 
“I enjoyed it all... Ruth explained a lot of things I had never understood - she was excellent, funny and patient.”

And on living nutrition with Daphne Lambert 
“There was nothing I did not enjoy and everything I did!”

There is, however, one piece of data, one number I would like to draw focus to from this year that sums up the wonderful community spirit and focus of Trill Farm; 12.

In early August, 12 unaccompanied minor refugees came to Trill Farm for a break from the merry-go-round of social housing, hostels and uncertainties that had surrounded them since seeking a better life in the UK. It was a chance to experience the English countryside and the hospitality that so often goes unreported in the relentless media and political data reports on immigration.

These 12 young men had made their way to the UK from war torn countries such as Syria, Sudan, Libya and Iraq. They had experienced traumatic journeys, leaving most suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder and with deep mental scars. Yet these 12 showed us the resilience of their own characters. They had the opportunity to relax and have fun, to learn new skills in the kitchen, carpentry workshop, garden and pottery, and be teenagers again. I’ll leave you with the reflections of their English teacher on the journey home:

“There was rather a lovely moment on the bus on the way home... Everyone was asleep. And then M. began to sing. It was a tad tuneless and sounded like someone singing along under the protection of headphones, but when I looked at him, he was simply singing and smiling out of the window. The others began to wake up and throw things at him, but he didn’t stop. One of the Kurdish boys asked him “Why you wake everyone with your song noise?” and M. said “Because I cannot keep the joy inside. It has to come out”. For M, this is a big, big step forward. He mostly doesn’t even smile; he didn’t want to come, and he nearly got away with not coming. But that singing shows what a week like last can achieve.”

Alex develops our courses and educational offering. Previously a secondary school teacher in London, he is passionate about inspiring sustainable change for people of all ages and from all backgrounds.