New barns at Ferring Country Centre have made a huge difference on the farm, for customers and visitors alike.
The project was launched in October last year and culminated in the official opening by West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith on Thursday.
She said she was proud to see what had been achieved by the independent charity, working in partnership with the council.
Louise said: “The centre is just amazing and it offers the young people such opportunities and a wide range of activities and that is what it is all about.”
Bob Rogers, chairman of trustees, spoke about the history of the centre, which is now in its 32nd year, providing day services for people with learning disabilities, who are customers.
He said: “The farm provides wonderful opportunities and facilities for our customers and visitors. The atmosphere at Ferring Country Centre is stimulating and empowering for all those who attend.”
The centre was started in 1986 for 12 young people with six full-time staff, offering work experience in horticulture and animal care.
The customers take an active role and benefit from the learning and experience, as well as the social side. Over the years, the centre has grown and it now has 132 customers, with a staff of 46.
Mr Rogers said the barn project had transformed what was ‘frankly an eyesore’ on the farm. The north-east corner had been overgrown and partly derelict and the trustees decided two years ago something had to be done about it.
There is a new animal barn, offering all-weather shelter, and a new storage barn, giving the maintenance team somewhere to house the tractor and other machinery, as well as a food preparation area for the farm team.
Hannah Tombs chief executive, said: “It makes a huge difference. In the winter, and in the very hot weather we have been having, the guys have been able to come in the barn for shelter.
“The main build concluded in late March and since then, we have spent time developing the area of land between the farm and the barns.
“Six new paddocks have been created, along with a walkway to allow us to move animals without taking them into the public areas, which in turn makes it easier and safer.”
She has been in the role since the autumn and said it was ‘so fulfilling’ as she was able to engage with the customers every day.
The next project, in a couple of years time, will be to revamp the reception area, cafe and shop.