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The start of Fairfield Trust

The charity was founded in 1975 by Ruth and Ken Hester after inheriting a farm from Ruth’s father. With support from Wiltshire County Council, Fairfield was established as a Rural Training Unit. It started with just a handful of students who were taught agriculture and horticulture primarily. 

The Rural Training Unit grew slowly over the next few years and employed a part-time teacher and a few residential care staff.  The only buildings on the current college site at that time were a few wooden huts, before the original agriculture building was constructed around 1979. This was followed in 1988, by the student common room.

As the Rural Training Unit continued to grow, it took in more students and employed further staff that required additional accommodation and around 1980 leased two properties from Knightstone Housing Association.  In 1981 it purchased the Horticultural nursery site and branched out into the field of employment with support from the Manpower Services Commission. The nursery employed about 12 people in a commercially run venture for a number of years. 

Fairfield Opportunity Farm Photo Now Fairfield College

Becoming Fairfield College

The Rural Training Unit became Fairfield Opportunity Farm in 1992 following the incorporation of Further Education Colleges. It continued to grow as a residential college, providing additional student living opportunities by procuring further residential properties. 

Work on modernising the present college site began in 2001; this coincided with the Further Education Funding Council changing to the Learning and Skills Council. The initial phase was completed in 2002; this was the main college building for a few years before it became apparent that further expansion was necessary. A long term site development plan was drawn up and funds were raised before Phases 1 and 3 were completed in 2011, shortly followed by Phase 4 in 2012.  Phase X – the new agriculture building was then added in 2014 so that the old agriculture building could be demolished to make way for the final Phase 2 development which was completed in March 2015. The Multi-Use Games Area, providing enrichment through sport was added in 2016.

Fairfield Opportunity Farm Photo Now Fairfield College

Expanding Fairfield Trust

In 2018, the Charity acquired Hope Nature Centre (now named Fairfield Animal Centre), an animal park and café established to work with adults with learning difficulties. This has provided additional learning and training opportunities for students and trainees at the centre as well as longer term employment opportunities.

In March 2018, Ken Hester sadly passed away leaving the farm and properties, including the farmhouse to the Trust. The Grade 2 listed farmhouse was at the heart of the Charity and has sadly sat empty since Ken moved to care facilities in 2000.  With the relevant permissions from the Council and support from various stakeholders, work began to restore the Farmhouse. The work turned the Farmhouse into a Life Skills Centre, giving students the opportunity to learn home and independent living skills in a realistic home environment.

Fairfield Animal Centre previously Hope Nature Centre

Recent updates from Fairfield Trust

Fairfield Trust has continued to invest into the offerings at Fairfield College, Fairfield Animal Centre and the associated facilities. In 2022, Fairfield Trust opened a new pub in Dilton Marsh called The Weavers. The Weavers saw a new opportunity for students to learn Hospitality skills in a realistic working pub. The pub is very popular with the local community, and students are learning a range of new skills.

There are plans for further growth across Fairfield Trust, including a Market Garden, and additional Vocational learning experiences within the college.

Fairfield Trust has been providing training opportunities for young people with learning disabilities for over 45 years. It has always been an organisation with the vision to grow and develop to meet the changing needs of young people and we thank Ken and Ruth for their inspiration and hard work in establishing the Charity.

The Weavers part of Fairfield Trust
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