“I always knew about the farm but as a child I’d never been, although I only live ten minutes away. It seems stupid that I’d never been. I started doing an animal management course and I needed work experience for that. So I came down here and started doing work experience when I was sixteen. That got me interested in farm animals and I went on to do agriculture at Harper College, and managed to pass that, somehow, with a distinction. Now I have a boyfriend who’s a farmer weirdly enough, so I help out on his farm and work here still.”
“Wow so quite a change.” I said.
“Yeah, coming from a non-farming background to this.” she said smiling with her hands in her pockets.
The farm has a large childrens playground and a cafe that looks like it has been designed by either by Gaudi or a Hobbit.
The curving wooden building with organically shaped curving windows was indeed designed to copy the famous style of Gaudi’s work in Barcelona. Don’t be deceived, I know almost nothing about architecture, but when I visited Barcelona I fell in love with Gaudi’s buildings, so he’s the only famous architect I know. The shapes, the mosaics, the colours! No other buildings seem so right. His work seems to me to call up the best of what beauty could be in a building, to lift my heart up to the wonder of human creative love for a space.
The pillars inside the cafe are shaped like tree trunks with branches and everywhere there are natural curves. Sitting inside with a hot chocolate, I smilingly film the building and a woman working on a laptop asks me what I’m doing. When I explain my quest she tells me that she runs a company helping people to build their own homes. Steffie has a warm smile and a very open look to her face so it’s very easy to sit and chat as if we already know one another.
“I’ve got a business called Bright Green Futures.” Steffie tells me. “I’ve always seen climate change as the most pressing issue to the world, one of the really important issues that I wanted to do something about. I went to university to study renewable energy and I built a house in an eco housing community. So I really wanted to help other people to do the same. To live in a really beautiful space that is also caring for the planet and each other. But I was quite far removed from doing that. I was stuck in conventions really. I was a single mum with children so I thought I had to keep my job, to keep a stable income. Also I didn’t know where to start. There were lots of things I didn’t know and I was scared.
“I was really passionate about doing this but I was a bit stuck. My consultancy job was environmental but limited. It was only ever projects that the government would fund. And then I did training with an organisation called Balanced View about Open Intelligence, which is really about being natural and relaxed all the time and finding your own solutions to any problems. It was really incredible, this opportunity to find a solution to any problem you have. I didn’t really believe it at first but I thought I would give it a go, because if that was true it would be amazing.
“Once I started the training my world really opened up. I sorted out loads of personal issues, all my relationships became completely harmonious, my parents, children, ex-partners, friends. I just became really relaxed and at ease with everything. But in terms of setting up Bright Green Futures as a business, it gave me the courage to just go for it. Not being scared that I didn’t have enough money or that it would fail. I was scared but I was totally able just to do it anyway.
“Now three years down the line, we’ve got the most eco-friendly, the first A-rated housing development in Bristol, for environmental impact and energy efficiency. The people who worked on it, loads of them said they’ve never had so much fun, working somewhere. We’ve had such a good time. We’re living there with other people who are training with Balanced View, so we’re all supporting each other in being completely empowered in what we’re doing. We’re bringing our children up in that kind of space which is totally respectful and loving all the time. I know you probably don’t believe that that’s possible!” she said laughing.
“I hope you’ll come round and have a look,” she said, “because I wouldn’t have believed it until I actually saw it, and I wouldn’t have believed I could do what I’ve actually achieved, and that it could come easily. It feels so nice to live a life where you take care of the planet, and of your friends, and of yourself. To people who don’t, you can say ‘we don’t have to live like this, we can all get together and solve all the worlds problems.’ Bit by bit, we will do it.”
Steffie certainly seems very balanced and open to talk to, her manner is very striking. I collect Balanced View in my notebook chipmunk cheeks for later consumption.