Thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire County Council young people with learning difficulties will be taught how to make money by selling alpaca droppings and farm fresh eggs.
The County Council has given £5,000 to Animal Antiks of Stoke Mandeville which provides assisted learning through animals to people with special educational needs.
The organisation, which serves around 30 young people, plans to use the cash to fund training in life and work skills by launching the two new money making ventures.
Sarah Kettlety (pictured above), the co-founder of Animal Antiks, explained: ‘Our three resident alpacas produce about one kilo of droppings every day. The alpaca digestive system doesn’t allow for seeds so their manure is one of the very best fertilisers available. It’s great for delicate plants and terrific for soil health.
On the internet, the fertiliser sells for £9.95 for 400 grams, so our job is to pick it up, dry it and market it.‘
The idea is that the enterprises are run by the young people to give them confidence and experience in business and social interaction.
Sarah added: ‘It may sound funny putting so much effort into manure, but as the saying goes ‘where’s there’s muck, there’s brass’ and this is also of huge benefit to young people who need our help.‘
The fresh egg venture is also new to the centre. The funding from Buckinghamshire County Council has allowed Animal Antiks to house up to 50 chickens with a view to running a profitable free range eggs business. 25 hens were delivered in early July 2016 after previously spending their entire lives on a battery farm.
The funding from Buckinghamshire County Council came via its Greater Aylesbury Local Area Forum. Chairman Brian Roberts said: ‘This is an innovative enterprise to help disadvantaged young people develop skills that will increase their chances to find employment. The aim of the project is that it will become self-sustainable and it is therefore good value for money as well as very beneficial to the local community. We awarded the funding after Animal Antiks attended our Local Area Forum and gave a very enthusiastic and impressive presentation.’
Sarah Kettlety, who has spent many years working in child social care, called the Council funding fabulous. ‘It’s great that the County Council can support grass-roots organisations such as ourselves,‘ she said.
Animal Antiks, which is currently seeking charitable status, also has ten dogs, eight sheep, two pigs, five ponies and six horses on its 30-acre farm in Stoke Mandeville.
Twins Jedd and Jordan Cullinan, 23, of Weston Turville, both have autism and are regular visitors to Animal Antiks.
Jedd said: ‘I love it here. The alpacas are cool.‘
He said of dealing with the alpaca droppings: ‘It’s a bit smelly, but it needs to be done.‘
Jordan said: ‘It’s all about keeping business going and helping other people, and I really enjoy myself here.‘
Martin Phillips, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health at the County Council, said: ‘This is another wonderful example of how our Local Area Forums are reaching out to their communities. The County Council is a big organisation but this shows we can effectively drill down to real grass-root levels and help fund projects that improve the lives of our public.
Learning independent living skills is vital to young people with learning disabilities. It makes them engaged with their local communities, and stops them becoming socially isolated in later life, promoting self-confidence and personal resilience.‘