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Our founders Rev James Mitchell-Innes, retired vicar of Christchurch in Winchester and his wife Carol, who had four children of their own, went on to become long-term foster parents of three youngsters with learning disabilities.

The couple’s eldest foster son, who had Downs Syndrome, attended a residential college where he learnt farming skills – even driving a tractor. But on his return home, there were no jobs for him. Carol believed this lack of employment opportunities was wrong and could be changed.  

It was her vision to start an inclusive horticultural project where adults with special needs are supported to participate in productive work. The hope was it could provide training and experience in horticulture for people who might move on to permanent employment while providing a supportive placement for others who because of their disability are unlikely to seek mainstream work. All she needed was a field. 

Through their church James and Carol met Drs Gordon and Anna Masson who lived on 500-acre Hill Farm near Sutton Scotney. Anna and Gordon kindly agreed to provide 4.5-acres of land and a barn for a peppercorn rent. Carol and James’ prayers were answered.

With generous financial support from their congregation, plus a lot of hard work, the Boaz Trust Hampshire Ltd was formed and demand for places grew. Over time and with the help of volunteers and members, the barn was fitted out with a kitchen, craft room, carpentry and engineering workshops. Outdoor facilities also grew to include a greenhouse, large vegetable garden, fruit cages and two polytunnels. Today more than 30 adults with learning disabilities attend Boaz on different days of the week.  

The trust remains committed to a more inclusive society where we all can be productive and feel valued. 

“There is a huge gap at the end of education for people with learning disabilities. As well as learning horticulture and life skills, the social interaction at Boaz is important.”

Sally, former deputy manager

Our name? 

Who was Boaz?

Boaz is a kind and wealthy farmer in the Old Testament’s Book of Ruth. Boaz sees Ruth, a penniless young widow, collecting leftover crops from his field after they have been harvested. The farmer instructs his labourers to leave the vulnerable woman a bigger share of the harvest and not to harm her. Eventually Boaz marries Ruth and through this marriage they become the great-grandparents of David, Israel’s greatest king. 

This is a story about family and community. Everyone has times when they are like Boaz with gifts to share and everyone has times when they are a Ruth in need.