After closing over the Christmas period, Vauxhall City Farm was well and truly up and running once I came in for my first volunteer visit. The farm was born in 1976 as a collaborative project between locals to provide for themselves by growing crops and keeping livestock. A year later it was registered as a charity and since then has become London’s most centrally located farm. Through the work of a core team of staff and volunteers, their mission is to provide educational, recreational and therapeutic activities for those living in the city that would otherwise not experience this. The farm is free to all, relying on revenue generated from the on-site café, program delivery such as the mobile farm and horse riding lessons, fundraising events and of course donors.
The morning started with myself and several other volunteers helping the staff in preparing the farm to be open to the public. The first job was running the animals into the areas which they spend the day. Many fun large animals like llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats and pigs live on the farm, though my favourites were two donkeys Bert and Ernie. They spend the day outside in an external paddock adjacent to the park at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Watching the animals running around, hearing the chickens calling out and then looking up to see apartment blocks and office building towering overhead is quite a stark contrast.
After a quick tea break, the rest of the morning was spent cleaning out the hutches of the smaller animals. This was a chance to get up close with the friendliest animals of the farm such as the chickens, rabbits and ferrets. Finally, the afternoon meant getting all of the stables and hutches clean and ready for the animals to spend the night indoors. Having not spent much time on farms in the past it was great to see what went on in the daily operations and how much hard work is put in to ensure that the animals are comfortable and live well here.
During the day most of the visitors were families with young children, who were very excited seeing all the animals up close and getting the chance to feed them by hand. Living in such a big urban city like London it can be difficult to interact with animals and for me the opportunity to do this is the biggest benefit of Vauxhall City Farm. It was great to volunteer here for the first time, walking away feeling more like I had spent the day in the countryside than in central London.
Written by Alex Cronin
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