City farms are rural environments co-existing within an urban setting, and provide many positive effects on their surrounding environment and communities.
During the 1960s a number of community gardens were established in the United Kingdom, influenced by the community garden movement in the United States. The first city farm was set up in 1972 in Kentish Town, London, and combined animal agriculture with gardening space. Other city farms followed across London and there are now over sixteen throughout the city.
“My local city farm is Surrey Docks and my first experience of the farm was when my mum took me there. I was about two years old and, of course, as a small child I was absolutely mesmerized and enchanted by the visit, as it was like my own little toy farm at home come to life.”
Surrey Docks was first established in 1975 on the site of derelict dockland between Greenland Dock and the River Thames. Its initial purpose was to try and raise livestock and produce food from what was regarded as wasteland. In 1986 the farm was re-located to its present site on the River Thames at South Wharf.
Surrey Docks farm is a wonderful example of a thriving city farm. In fact a few years ago the farm was awarded money from the National Lottery Fund to invest in a vehicle to be used as a mobile farm, travelling around to different locations giving people the opportunity to experience rural life in an urban environment.
City farms can offer something for everyone and provide opportunities for exercise and learning in alternative outdoor settings, which can in turn act as stepping stones to the wider countryside. In urbanized areas plants and animals can be used to engage young people and individuals with learning difficulties and help instill them with a sense of responsibility, providing routes into education and/or employment.
The benefits of school visits to city farms are invaluable, providing a focus for educational, environmental and conservation activities whilst teaching transferable skills and a sense of responsibility.
“I remember at my own primary school we had many visits to our local farm and we worked on projects which we all enjoyed very much - feeding the animals and learning about their habitats. There were also opportunities to be involved with grooming the ponies, collecting hens’ eggs, planting flowers and vegetables, as well as demonstrations from the resident blacksmith.”
The city farm can provide excellent opportunities for a pupil’s personal development and can be a route to many experiences beyond their expectations.
City farms and communal gardens are usually community managed projects, often developed by local people in a voluntary capacity, and commonly retain a strong degree of volunteer involvement, providing many mutual benefits to both the people and the environment.
The benefits for urban dwellers are many as city farms can allow them to interact with farm animals and crops. For some people, who may never visit a rural farm, this provides a chance to see how farm animals are raised and to make the link between agriculture and food.
Community farms and gardens also help in the education and support of issues such as health, climate change, education, regeneration and local economies. Many studies have also documented the therapeutic value of gardening and exercise, as well as the social and health benefits of public green spaces and animal-assisted therapy that city farms offer. Furthermore findings suggest that community farms and gardens have a positive impact on the local economy through the local spending and employment opportunities they provide.
City farms are a wonderful addition to urbanized areas as they play such major role in city life yet so few people talk or even know about them. I sincerely hope this soon starts to change because they are valuable for children and adults alike, as it prompts peoples’ curiosity and enthusiasm to become more involved with the environment in which we all live.
By Carlotta Styles - Voices for the Future
Voices For The Future is a platform for the younger generation to have their say about environmental issues, nature, travel and community.
Having a published article online is always beneficial when applying for work experience, internships, jobs and university applications and we love to hear your opinions. If you are aged 16+ and would like to get your voice heard then send an email to email@example.com to register your interest.
We also offer work shadowing days that we encourage students to apply for. The work shadowing day offers the chance for 16-18 year olds to come to our London HQ and shadow a member of our team. The departments you can work in are events, marketing, research and development, UK operations or overseas operations. It provides a great opportunity for anyone with an interest in environmental conservation or volunteer travel to have a taste for what a career working for an NGO in this industry would be like.