An Etwall farm which has, for the last 40 years, helped troubled young people has been put on the market for £1.6 million but it could mean the end of the project.

Hundreds of young people struggling with life have benefited from the help provided by Happy Hens over the last four decades. Highfields Farm has been the home of Roger and Beryl Hosking, who wanted to help young people in trouble by providing them with work, support, teaching and love.

The couple have dedicated their lives to the project, and say they soon saw angry hands becoming gentle hands collecting eggs while their visitors learned to count, read, write, handle money and customers and became positive members of society.

It has also been a popular venue for young families and all ages however, for the past three years, the couple have been trying to find a trust to continue their work without success.

They have now decided, very reluctantly, to sell the farm so they can retire - although it is very much business as usual at the moment.

Roger Hosking at Highfields Happy Hens farm in Etwall, which is now up for sale.

Speaking in a joint statement, the couple said: "Beryl and Roger have for nearly 40 years built and run Happy Hens as a refuge for struggling youngsters, it has been well-known that over the past three years they have tried to find a trust to take over without success.

"They have now (at last) decided to bite the bullet and seek new ownership and management so that they can retire.

"Their hope is to pass the farm and project on as a going concern and they have instructed Bagshaws to market the farm deal with it. Watch this space, but please do not panic – the farm is still open as usual."

The farm is currently run as a 24,000 bird free range egg unit and has a farm shop and tea room together with animal and play areas.

Local education authorities have used the project for youngsters who have been excluded from school or who are in danger of being excluded.

Mr Hosking, who was awarded an MBE in 2011 for the project, previously said that the biggest thing the students learn is to respect and love themselves.

The farm offers around more than 100 youngsters a place every year and currently has six enrolled on the school programme. Some children only visit once or twice while others spend time at the farm for many years.

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