Young farmers have paid a heartfelt fond farewell to their leader who has helped children grow their confidence and independence by volunteering at a farm shop.
Members of the Oathall Young Farmers’ Club hosted a farewell party for their much-loved leader Ree Woodward, 44, who has been volunteering at Oathall Farm for nine years and been manager of the farm shop for three years.
Ree is leaving the farm, on the Community College campus, in Appledore Gardens, at the end of July.
The shop was officially opened by Alan Titchmarch in 2012 and was created, with the help of many grants, to open two days a week to sell the produce from Oathall Community College farm.
Megan Hudson, 15, chairman of Oathall Young Farmers, said on behalf of the other members: “It was so nice to have someone there who we can talk to about anything.
“We want to thank her for all the effort she put into helping run Oathall Farm and for helping us out at the agricultural shows.
“She has helped students’ confidence grow and develop and is always ready for laugh.”
Students have been involved in all aspects of the operation from meat production to managing a commercial enterprise.
From August, the shop will provide an outlet for meat boxes but it will no longer sell homemade sausages and burgers.
Ree said: “It’s the students and the animals I will miss the most, and taking them to the shows.
“We borrow cattle from a local farmer and we take our own pigs.
“This year the kids named the pig after me so at least my name will carry on, in a pig.”
A spokeswoman for the college said the operation of the shop had been examined to ensure it had a sustainable future and continued to deliver vocational experience, farm tours, and its well-attended Young Farmers Club.
To meet these requirements stock will be rationalised to more manageable levels so the vast majority of the animals can be kept on the Oathall site.
Students will continue to visit other agricultural establishments to learn about farming practices that are not sufficiently demonstrated on the Oathall Farm.
The lowered stock levels will result in less meat being produced. The farm will still sell its produce but with less volume there will no longer be a need to open the shop on a regular weekly basis.
The spokeswoman added that the shop will still be used to provide an educational experience of meat preparation and commerce for students and to retail meat when the need arises.