St Albans college students open farm shop

THE CHICKEN and the egg are of equal importance to students at Oaklands College, who have started their own farm produce business called ‘The Chicken Run’.

The initiative, set up to help students with moderate learning difficulties, enables students to learn via hands-on experience as they run a farm shop selling eggs from chickens they care for, and vegetables which they cultivate themselves.

In addition to their classroom learning, the scheme allows them to improve their interpersonal skills, confidence and gain first-hand knowledge of running a business whilst also helping them to give something back to their community.

Mark Dawe, Principal and Chief Executive of Oaklands College, said: “The Chicken Run Farmshop has been extremely effective in motivating and encouraging our pupils to learn skills that will help to prepare them for the future. The pupils’ dedication and enthusiasm is such that they even turn up on weekends to look after the chickens!”

The shop opened in June 2009 at the Smallford campus and was the brainchild of the Pathway manager, Steve Lerwill. He wanted to set up a scheme that would provide students with work experience, which can be difficult for them to find.

The scheme is sponsored by local pub and restaurant operator the Orchid Group as part of its commitment to the local community and they have made an initial investment of �1,000. This money will be used to buy more chickens which will more than double productivity. Orchid are also helping to spread the word about the pupils’ good work by designing logos and promotional literature.

Orchid’s CEO, Rufus Hall and commercial director Simon Dodd will also act as mentors to guide the pupils through the world of business, and other Orchid staff will lend a hand to the business when required.

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Mr Hall said: “We recognise the importance of being involved in our local communities and are delighted to be able to help Oaklands College students with their Chicken Run business.

“Not only is this a great way for them to gain vital skills to prepare them for the work place, but it also highlights the importance of healthy and sustainable living.”

Other companies have donated products to the store and it recycles surplus resources from the college, such as logs left over from chain-sawing courses which are then bagged as firewood and sold with 50% of the proceeds going to Cancer Research and the rest going to The Chicken Run.

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