Meet The Team

Brenda - Apple Tree Farm

Brenda

“The farm is as much therapy and support for me as it is for the families and children we work with. I like to think of the children as ‘my children’ and have a deep sense of commitment to doing what is best for them.

I co-own the farm with Phil and direct the organisation alongside him. Together we continue to develop the farm with our children’s interests at heart.

In my younger years, I served as a police officer in London and the counties. Once my daughter was born, I was attracted to a nicer life in the country and ended up here in North Devon. Social care, and in particular children’s social care, has always been a passion of mine, and my own daughter has hemiplegic cerebral palsy and is undergoing assessment for ADHD.

Services, provisions, and support for families simply felt right from the start and I dreamt of making the farm a hub of support, calm and positivity.

Alongside this I also seek personal development and have completed various training courses including Makaton and Drawing and Talking Therapy. I am now undertaking an undergraduate degree in psychology with counselling.

My favourite animal on the farm must be Richard the sheep. I watched him grow up from a baby and he is so placid and friendly, I adore him! The donkeys are a close second though.

Strongest skill at work: Adaptability – I am a quick thinker and adapt well to situations, which means I can just about manage most things children and animals can throw at me. I am also very resourceful and will overcome most problems.

Hobbies: I don’t have time for huge amounts but taking the dogs for a swim is a firm favourite. I have been known to swim with them too! I enjoy sewing and upcycling old furniture and I could spend hours and hours browsing antique shops, the smell of old furniture is so embracing!”

Phil - Apple Tree Farm

Phil

“Hi! I’m Phil and I co-own the farm with Brenda. We originally bought the farm to help children with special educational needs and to offer them a place to thrive.

My favourite animal at the farm is Richard the sheep! He is a massive doofus and always comes over for attention and a good head scratch, although you do need to be careful of his horns if he runs at you from behind!

If I had to pick an animal that I would like to be on the farm, then I would be a Lamb! They have so much fun running around and climbing on things!

My hobbies and interests mostly revolve around outdoor activities, such as kite flying, archery, carp fishing, playing my ukulele or guitar and riding my motorbike.

I have spent my entire working life working outdoors and have a plethora of country skills that I have learned in this time. I love to be outdoors and enjoy learning new outdoors skills, especially working with wood and hand tools. 

I bring a very practical element to the team with a hands-on approach, I enjoy teaching my 1:1’s new skills that will hopefully enrich their prospects in the future.  We enjoy doing woodwork, which can range from hand carving Harry Potter wands or creating bows and arrows, to building small scale wooden structures such as field shelters etc. “

Evie Smith -  Apple Tree Farm

Shelly

Favourite animal: That’s a tough one; I like them all, but for different reasons! I do have a soft spot for Clive the sheep, he has a great personality. I admire his tenacity and the way he attempts to disguise himself as a goat in order to obtain more food!

Strongest skill at work:  I would say my strongest skill at work is my warm, compassionate and approachable nature, I enjoy working alongside individuals and learning about their interests, as well as supporting them to realise their full potential. 

Hobbies: As a family, we enjoy camping and going on adventures in our truck. Being a Play Therapist, I love searching for new items for my play kit from car boots and charity shops. I also enjoy walking my excitable dogs through the woods.

If you could be any of the farm animals, who would you be?  I think I would like to one of the goats because I love their curiosity and enthusiasm for exploring. I would love to be able to run, jump, and play all day, especially as they even have a slide!

Evie Smith -  Apple Tree Farm

Toto

Favourite animal: I have so many favourite animals, it is hard to choose.  Overall, I’d say my favourite creature is a barn owl.  I am lucky because there is one who flies at dawn and dusk near my home. I find them so beautiful and a little bit magical. I’m not sure yet if there are any owls who fly near Apple Tree farm so I will be keenly listening out for any hoots!  

 Strongest skill at work: I’m a creative person and I enjoy improvisation.  If something is needed and we don’t have it, I will have a go at making a substitute.  So, if you see me trying to make a piano out of tissue box, you’ll know what I’m up to! 

 Hobbies: I love being out in nature, camping, making pottery on a wheel, cooking, singing, spending time with my lovely dog, reading stories, swimming in the sea and making things. 

 If you could be any of the farm animals, who would you be?  I would be Robin the speaking cat.  I would enjoy seeing the surprise on people’s faces when they hear my little voice piping up but can’t see the person.  I would spend my time welcoming everyone to the farm and would enjoy delivering messages. 

Evie Smith -  Apple Tree Farm

Lizzie

Favourite animal:  I enjoy being around all of the animals on the farm but my favourite animals at the farm are the donkeys. I love how cuddly and cheeky they are.

Strongest skill at work: I love learning new things and each time I’m at the farm, I seem to learn something new. I also enjoy getting stuck in and giving anything a go.

Hobbies: My main hobby is horse riding. I’ve ridden my whole life and it gives me a great sense of freedom. I also enjoy sea swimming, kayaking and walking.

If you could be any of the farm animals, who would you be?  That’s a tricky one! I think I would be an alpaca. I quite like how quirky and unique they are!

Evie Smith -  Apple Tree Farm

Vikki

Favourite animal: My favorite animals on the farm are the guinea pigs because I love the sounds that they make and their cute little legs, also they are similar to my all time favorite animal which is a Capybara.

Strongest skill at work: I believe my strongest skill is my organisational mindset and ability to stay calm and level-headed.

Hobbies:  In my free time I make doll’s house furniture and other miniature items, and I also go indoor climbing twice a week which is my favorite type of exercise as the routes workout my mind as well as my body.

If you could be any of the farm animals, who would you be?: I would definitely be a ferret as they have the coolest enclosure with toys and tunnels galore! 
 
I joined the team during the HAF summer programme and will continue at the farm alongside studying for my childhood studies degree.
Evie Smith -  Apple Tree Farm

Evie

Favourite animal: I like most animals but at the farm, Richard the sheep is the best!

Strongest skill at work: Just getting on with it, I like completing my tasks and enjoying seeing the results.

Hobbies: Swimming and wakeboarding, and art.

If I could be a superhero, I would Spider-Man.

“I came to the farm for work experience and never left! I volunteered for a while and was offered some hours of animal care work during the weekends as I am still in full-time education. I also work alongside the rest of the team in the provision of holiday sessions for the children at the farm. I am a qualified swimming instructor and lifeguard, so I spend a lot of time in the water.”

Sarah - Apple Tree Farm

Sarah

Favourite Animal: My favourite animal is a rabbit and we have a house bunny called Thor!

My strongest skill at work: I’ve got tons of experience with administration and communication but by far the best bit for me is to see the complete picture, the families, the children and do whatever I can to make their experience successful and go smoothly.  I understand what it’s like being a parent to children with additional needs.  I really enjoy helping people and hope to go above and beyond to build on the success of Apple Tree Farm.  I look forward to helping you in any way I can.

If I could be a superhero – I’d be Elastigirl from the Incredibles!  I’m sure it would help in the office!

About me:

I had been working at a local primary school supporting the SENCO with her admin.  When I started, I hadn’t yet realised that I’d need to navigate this process for my own two children as their needs were becoming more apparent with age.  My youngest stopped being able to access mainstream education and I needed to leave my job while we figured out what would work for us as a family.  We found Apple Tree Farm and it came at just the right time for us. My child engaged in animal care sessions and Alternative Provision and it made such a difference to them to be able to access something, feel accepted and build their confidence.  I recently was delighted to accept a job working here at Apple Tree as an administrator. I am passionate about supporting families with their journeys and putting children first, and it’s wonderful to be able to be part of this organisation that helped our family so much when it seemed like no one would.

Hobbies: I love seeing my friends, gardening, and cuddling our house rabbit, Thor.