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 and Laura. 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 autism and 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!”

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.”

Laura Cloke - Apple Tree Farm

Laura

“I came to the farm in June 2019 after visiting the farm on an open day and started as a volunteer soon after. I was studying for my psychology degree at the time and was fascinated by the idea of therapy farming having grown up on a dairy farm as a young child. I was already passionate about wanting to work with children, so it seemed like the best of both worlds to me.

I was quickly volunteering as many hours as I could around my retail job as I had fallen in love with the farm, and the work, and not long after was offered a full-time job on the farm upon completion of my degree.

I am now very proud to be one of the directors and play an important role in the ongoing progression of Apple Tree Farm, or my second home as we more frequently refer to it.”

My favourite animal on the farm is hard because I really do love them all, but I think our Ouessant sheep must take the top of my list. Who wouldn’t love miniature sheep!

My Strongest skill at work I think is my ability to give almost anything a try. I am frequently found trying to race on go-karts with the children or attempting gymnastics or other stunts. I am not afraid to look silly or end up a bit muddy all in the name of having fun.

My Hobbies: I am a bit of a 4X4 fanatic, I have a pickup truck I take off-road and have a roof tent for camping holidays fitted to it. I also have a Labrador called Maisie who I like to spend lots of time out exploring with.

If you could be any of the farm animals, who would you be? I would absolutely want to be Rodney the Kune Kune pig. He is the most pampered animal on the farm and spends his days basking in the sun getting scratches.

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 daughter engaged in animal care sessions and Alternative Provision and it made such a difference to her to be able to access something, feel accepted and build her 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.

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. “