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Animal farm in the city

 

Londoners are used to spotting pigeons pecking along pavements and train platforms, dogs on leashes and surly cats roaming the streets. But they rarely get the chance to get close to animals.

Inner city farms are unique attractions that bring a touch of the countryside to an urban setting. Kentish Town City Farm is one such establishment that is home to cockerels, hens, ducks, horses, pigs, goats, sheep and cows.

People are welcome to walk freely in and out of the grounds, unlike the locked and bolted doors of homes in London.

Kentish Town City Farm began in 1972 through an existing community group and was the first of its kind in London. It inspired farms to be established in other cities in the UK, such as the Ouseburn Farm in Newcastle and the Acorn Farm in Liverpool, all of which form part of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG).

The farm encourages visitors from disadvantaged communities. However, John Langan, stockman and youth worker, says their intention is to bring people together without singling out the sectors that people come from.

Young volunteers in their early teens are also encouraged to help out at the farm and learn about the animals.

Breaking down barriers

Langan says the farm “breaks down barriers” which exist in an urban area. He says the existence of the farm “increases the self-confidence of young people and gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership of that they do”.

The child volunteers, who usually attend the farm once a week, stride around confidently on site, focused in their work and approaching and embracing the animals with comfort and ease.

They bond with the animals through their sense of touch: the only way in which a connection is possible and which has led to the popularity of city farms.

Although visitor records are kept, Langan says it is virtually impossible to measure the general impact of the farm on people. “But people keep coming back,” he says positively.

The city farm has received a negative response from animal activists who accuse the farmers as murderers, as once the animals grow to the appropriate size, they are sold to be slaughtered for meat. Langan says the protesters disrupt the harmony of the farm.


The realities of life

However, the farm brands itself as ‘an educational and recreational project’ and gives the impression that the animals are kept for the key purpose of helping people. Langan argues that selling the animals is a means of disposing of them, instead of being lumbered with their bodies once they die.

He adds that Kentish Town City Farm is, in essence, a farm: “We show people the first part of the food chain and the realities of life”, he says.

The farm relies on council funding and donations but is suffering from the cuts to council funding also faced by other farms.

However, they remain positive as they work on new ways to raise money. Some of the workers are busy preparing for a Table Top Sale to take place on the following day, where people pay for tables and sell second-hand goods.

People living in the city are used to a cold touch: from the grab poles on the London Underground carriages and buses; the embossed metal of loose change; and the wintry breeze that sends a chill through layers of woolen jumpers and overcoats.

Kentish Town City Farm helps Londoners connect with farmland animals that they would not otherwise see and take a moment to appreciate a different kind of creature comfort.

 

Words and pictures by Monica Sarkar

Visit Kentish Town City Farm, 1 Cressfield Close  London NW5 4BN (020 7916 5421) www.ktcityfarm.org.uk
Nearest tube: Kentish Town (Northern line)

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London Tattoos: walking canvasses of art

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