Despite gradual return of attractions and the announcement that zoos can reopen in the coming weeks, the city’s community farms remain quiet.
Operating behind closed doors, staff and volunteers at St Werburgh’s City Farm, Lawrence Weston Community Farm and Windmill Hill City Farm are working hard to ensure these important green spaces are maintained, and that animals are well looked after.
“Life at the farm has definitely got quieter during lockdown,” says Jess Clynewood, co-director of St Werburgh’s City Farm. “We’ve had to shut to the public, and to temporarily stop offering our volunteer sessions and placements to keep everyone safe during the Covid-19 crisis.
“We’ve been making fortnightly phone calls to all of our regular volunteers and service users to keep in touch.”
Similarly, Lawrence Hill Community Farm has stopped volunteers and the public visiting the farm, with administrator Helen Gray saying: “With no volunteers or visitors the farm feels very empty. Since lockdown the staff have been taking care of all the animals and the gardens.”
They have also been phoning regular volunteers and service users, keeping in touch at a difficult time.
Simone Sayers, chief executive of Windmill Hill City Farm in south Bristol says that lockdown has been a “rollercoaster ride”.
“The site is quiet with our cafe, room hire, school and general visitors all shut down,” Simone says. “Our childcare has been partly open, just for key workers, and we’ve been contacting by telephone the 200 or so people who have mental health issues or learning difficulties who usually come to groups on site.”
The farms, which normally welcome people from across Bristol to enjoy green space, animals and locally grown produce, have had to adapt during lockdown.
“This week we started Over The Farm Gate where we are selling farm produce over the gate between 11am to midday every day,” says Helen from Lawrence Weston Community Farm. “This has been brilliant as we are getting to see more people again and reconnecting with familiar faces and new.”
Similarly, St Werburgh’s City Farm have been delivering home growing and baking kits to people’s doorsteps, as well as trialling “exclusive use” of our sites to vulnerable people that may not have access to outdoor space during lockdown and donating food to Coexist Community Kitchen, located within Mivart Studios in Easton.
Despite adapting to lockdown measures, the farms rely on donations to keep running.
“This crisis has hit us really hard,” says Simone. “Even in normal times we need donations to make sure we can stay open for free for everyone, keep an ethos of helping people who need it most and do the work for the community.”
In response, Windmill Hill City Farm are asking people to give regular donations as while they plan the reopening of the farm in phases.
“The farm shop has just launched a click and collect online service and we’re planning a big top to put over the garden so the cafe can open with extra social distancing in place, probably in July,” says Simone.
“It’s going to be different and hopefully a day out at the city farm will be just as exciting.”
St Werburgh’s City Farm, located in the heart of Bristol, needs donations to cover the £500-a-day costs to keep the farm running and are encouraging people to donate online.
Jess hopes that the farm can reopen as soon as it is safe to do, restarting volunteering, support and wellbeing sessions before fully reopening to the public; the farm has quite narrow pathways which can make social distancing difficult.
Lawrence Hill Community Farm is raising money to replace its dilapidated volunteer cabin, as well as cover farm costs.
People can also become members of the farm, volunteer their time when it reopens, hire its training or community room and spread the word via social media.
Most of all, Simone, Jess and Helen want people to know that they are looking forward to welcoming people back through their gates and that the animals are being well looked after.
“We would just like to thank everyone for their kind words and support during this difficult time,” says Helen. “We are really looking forward to seeing you all when we reopen.”
Main photo: St Werburgh’s City Farm