Thrings Eats… with Jane Cooper

Jane Cooper has a mission – to connect people with the countryside. From “Owlets” who toddle in the CET’s playgroups to elderly people in local care homes who benefit from the companionship of animals, all who visit the Trust at Home Farm, Beaulieu, feel that connection.

Vegetable gardens, fields of roaming cows, pigs and sheep and stunning treehouse venues in ancient woodland help make up this stunning 60-acre site - but crucially it is a working farm where visitors get hands-on experience of caring for the animals and learning about the provenance of their food.

For Jane, that’s an important and rewarding part of the CET’s work. “Everybody here is really committed to showing that farming is about producing food well, not just keeping animals,” she says.

“We don’t tell people whether they should eat animal products, but we will say that it’s important to understand what has happened for food to be on your plate. Our responsibility is to produce that food as sustainably as we can, with the highest possible levels of environmental and animal welfare.”

Jane talks passionately about the positive effects staff see in people who spend time on the farm. One young girl from a non-farming background overcame anxiety to take part in a Young Handlers’ competition, parading sheep at the New Forest Show. At the other end of the scale, an elderly blind woman who was a wartime land girl was given the opportunity to milk a goat. “You could see she had the technique perfectly – and she had thought that was part of her life that was gone,” Jane says. “That was really moving for us”.

Alongside income from donations, sponsorship and legacies, the Trust generates its funds from school residentials and courses for adults of all ages.

When Sally asks about funding challenges, Jane responds: “We’ve made most of our public events free, which is bringing in a wider range of people and that’s what we wanted to achieve: it’s our charitable mission to connect people with the countryside. We have to earn money but we don’t want to price anyone out of coming, so we have to constantly balance those two needs.

“There’s also the fact that we’re a middle-sized charity – we’re not tiny enough that we’re entirely volunteer-led and not big enough to have professional fundraisers, and that can be a tricky position. But we’ve been going since 1975 which is an achievement we’re very proud of.”

Fortunately, there is a lot of goodwill for the Trust from its neighbours. “We have great long-term support from local business, the Beaulieu estate and the people of the village. We have a lot of help from the local farming community who are generous with their time and advice because they are passionate about their work and appreciate what we are trying to do.”

And, when Sally asks Jane what the best part of her job is, she doesn’t hesitate: “It’s definitely that no two days are the same - you never know what’s going to happen! We’ve got children and animals – what more is there to say?”

Would you like to know more, please contact Sally Pike