1701. Julie Plumley
Julie Plumley, from Dorset, is a farmer’s daughter and social worker who founded ‘Future Roots’ to create a therapeutic space for young people aged between 13 and 18 excluded from school, or at risk of exclusion, to learn farming and life skills.
Julie grew up on a dairy farm, and during her career as a social worker, realised that if other young people were able to experience life in a rural setting managing day to day operational tasks, it could help them build resilience, wellbeing and skills, particularly for young people experiencing difficulties at school and home, who could benefit from a different learning opportunity. Set up in 2006, Julie’s farm and social enterprise ‘Future Roots’ now hosts up to 100 young people aged 8-18 years old a week, taking part in tasks such as repairing sheds, hedge-laying and shearing sheep, with further opportunities to take a vocational course in land-based operations.
Julie is also the founder of ‘Countrymen UK‘, a charity helping men who find themselves isolated due to deteriorating physical or mental health, or changing social circumstances, to enjoy access to countryside environments and outdoor activity on farms. Julie saw the need for such a charity after her father’s Parkinson’s Disease progressed and he required further support to access the countryside, but was unable to gain this through existing day centres which only provided care indoors. ‘Countrymen UK’ is a growing network of care farms and gardens across the country, with 12 farms currently providing services ensuring men who need support for meaningful outdoor activity can benefit.
In a personal letter to Julie, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“I was inspired to learn of ‘Future Roots’ and how you use your farm in the most remarkable and innovative way to support others in need.
“You have created a wonderful environment where young people can learn and grow in confidence. You are also equipping those young people with practical life skills.
“I was delighted to hear about your newest initiative ‘Countrymen UK’ supporting men, like your own father, to continue enjoying the great outdoors. Parkinson’s and dementia can be very isolating diseases and so it is fantastic that your groups are getting people together safely and feeling part of a group again.”
In response to receiving the award, Julie said:
“This is really exciting and such a fantastic feeling that our work is recognised and so totally unexpected. It means a great deal to us. The team are so dedicated and work so hard to provide a personalised service for the young people and countrymen, never giving up on anyone. I couldn’t achieve anywhere near as much without the amazing team we have here.”
Pictured below: Julie’s farm in Dorset and the Future Roots programme (photo credits: Alex Turner)