Sunnyside’s little bit of Disney serves up an organic ideal

Not only does it feel good to buy local, organically-grown fresh produce, but if you can help your community at the same time, it’s a big bonus.

That’s why the manager of a new Berkhamsted café bar is delighted to include fruit and vegetables raised at the Sunnyside Rural Trust’s site in Northchurch in each week’s menu at popular eaterie Here.

Sunnyside Rural Trust

Sunnyside Rural Trust

As Tom Hodge and assistant manager Beth Clarke took a tour of the six acres of allotments and beautiful orchards just off New Road, they were able to learn how this highly professional and valuable charity project works.

The trainees, aged 16 and over, who all have learning disabilities, are trained in growing, harvesting and working with the ex-battery chickens and, in turn, gain self-esteem and serve their community.

Tom says: “Being a customer of Sunnyside fits with our ethos of buying local and using only the finest quality produce.

“The food is grown just a stone’s throw from the café and is all organic and tastes delicious.

“We tend to get something different each week, but we always use Sunnyside eggs.

“It’s good to know that we are supporting such a good cause.”

But Sunnyside chief executive Keely Charlick is keen to stress that it’s important that the Trust operates as a successful business as well as a charity.

She joined four years ago and has helped to bring the annual turnover to £600,000 to make the charity self-sustaining.

It achieves this enviable situation by growing and selling produce at the Northchurch and Hemel Hempstead sites as well as on Berkhamsted market.

Sunnyside also has a contract to grow bedding plants for Dacorum Borough Council and the trainees can, under supervision, be hired for garden work by individuals and businesses.

Keely says: “Many of our trainees have had hard lives and without the support of Sunnyside would be in institutions.

“They don’t have much money, or joy in their lives and this is their little bit of Disney.

“I am passionate that we are here to serve the community and put something back into society.

“One of the most disadvantaged groups in the community is producing some of the highest quality goods.

“We want to boost the local economy and hope that other businesses and individuals will decide to use our services – and not because this is a charity, but because we give a good service.”

Keely is delighted to have the Lower King’s Road café bar as a customer, saying: “Right from the start Here was proactive.

“They came to us asking us to supply produce and we have a great relationship with the staff.”