Food at the heart of City Farms - support for Communities

News item first posted on: 24/03/21

Food at the heart of City Farms - support for Communities

City Farms across the UK will be taking part in the first ever City Farm Day today (Thursday 25th March 2021) after a year in which dozens of them across the country have played a vital role in supporting families and vulnerable people since the first national COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 came into force.
From running local food banks that support families in need to delivering pork pies to hardworking members of the NHS and live animal Feeding on Facebook to grow your own campaigns, City Farms have been at the heart of using food to connect with communities in need from London to Liverpool and Swansea to Edinburgh.
Chris Blythe, Director of Social Farms and Gardens, said: “Over the last 50 years a network of City Farms has bloomed across the UK, playing an important part in connecting people living in towns and cities to the farming life.
“In the past 12 months, the services and support delivered by our city Farms have been even more in demand. 
“City Farm Day is a chance to tell the story of all the amazing work that staff and volunteers do day in day out to look after these special places. And to celebrate the huge contribution that City Farms have made in supporting local communities through the pandemic.  They are more in demand now than ever before.”
There are more than 50 City Farms across the UK and over the last five decades they have played an important role in connecting communities to the farming life, welcoming school groups and visitors. In recent years City Farms have provided life changing opportunities for people suffering from mental health challenges, such as depression or loneliness, or have given people the chance to develop new skills to help get them back into work. This includes working with animals, helping with growing fruit and veg or running cafes.
Kentish Town City Farm was the first City Farm in the UK - set up in 1972 - and the movement has steadily grown over the last 50 years with tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of visitors. City Farm’s vary in size from a small football pitch to the size of a medium family Farm, with Farm animals from cows and sheep to goats and hens, community gardens and allotments.
The first ever City Farm Day is designed as a virtual celebration of the role that urban social and community focused Farms play in connecting people to farming and bringing communities together. Visitors, supporters and volunteers will be able to share what City Farms mean to them using the hashtag #cityfarmday on social media.
Mike Collins, a trustee at Bath City Farm, added: “Food has been at the heart of how the City Farm movement has responded to the huge challenges faced by volunteers and the communities that they are part of during the last year.
“Growing, cooking and eating food together is such an important part of City Farm life helping to build new communities. From running food banks to delivering meals cooked with love and supporting families in need, staff and volunteers at the City Farms have stepped up to the mark in the year since the first covid-19 lockdown.”
“City Farm Day provides a moment of reflection on how these very special places in the heart of communities across the nation nourish people, connect kids to farming and provide much loved spaces for visitors to connect to the natural world.”
Like many charities, City Farms have seen a significant drop in income over the last year that normally comes from visitors and selling food and produce in Farm shops and cafes. City Farms will start re-opening, subject to Government guidelines, in the coming weeks.
Examples of City Farms supporting their local communities since the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020:
Balsall Heath City Farm in Birmingham has been using its kitchen to provide hot meals for the community to take away three lunchtimes a week during the pandemic and has been used as a distribution centre for City Council funded distribution of food parcels to families and individuals in the local community. 

Bath City Farm in Bath used its training kitchen to cook thousands of meals for their volunteers and vulnerable people across the city. The food was delivered by local volunteer drivers to help make sure that those in need had healthy and nutritious food.  The Farm also ran a weekly Facebook Live animal feeding every Saturday morning watched by tens of thousands.

Fordhall Community Farm in Shropshire delivered 200 cream teas to a local nursing home for the VE Day celebrations and supplied pork pies to local NHS staff. They also set up the Afternoon Amble – that includes a walk, tea and cake and craft activities - as a response to the increased levels of anxiety and isolation in the local community.

Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh became a real community hub, working with other charities based in the Scottish capital such as Big Hearts, to help deliver much needed food to hundreds of families in need. 

Heeley City Farm in Sheffield ran healthy holidays events at the Farm during the 2020 summer holidays.  This gave young people on free school meals a free meal whilst they weren't at school and whilst at the Farm the young people could get involved with many activities at the Farm.

St Werburghs in Bristol ran campaigns to get people growing their own produce, distributing 1000 Garden in a Box packages, and 120 Windowsill Warrior and Home Baking Hero Kits to local volunteers and families. The Farm also worked with the Coexist Community Kitchen by supplying more than 50 trays of fresh produce to turn into nutritious meals for 100 families a week.

Spitalfields City Farm in London worked with local schools to find out which families needed that extra support. The Farm team helped families look at ways to reduce food costs and supplied a range of items such as, essential cupboard stores, fresh fruit and veg, where possible this has been using Farm-grown produce and weekly essentials such as milk, eggs, bread and crackers plus some tasty treats.  Recipe cards were also included with the aim of getting kids involved in the cooking.

Stonebridge City Farm in Nottingham cooked hundreds of meals for local organisations, including Highwood House Homeless Hostel, and plants and produce were donated to a local residential home for older people.

Swansea Community Farm delivered weekly food parcels (containing staples, surplus food from a local supermarket, salads, fruits and vegetables grown on the Farm and eggs laid by the ducks and hens) to 50 people in the local community struggling with food poverty, health issues or shielding, for more than eight months.

Tam O Shanter Urban Farm on the Wirral ran its Furry food bank project, working with other local charities.  Local people could drop off any spare vegetables and fruits, pet food or bird seed at the Farm, where it was sorted and distributed to the charity partners who then made sure that it got to those in need. 

Delivering pork pies to the NHS from Fordhall Community Farm.