HOOF: Hands Off Our Farm! Save farm staff and services from proposed cuts
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Firstly, we would like to stress that the farm is not at risk of closure. Please take the time to read the text in full. We know it’s long, but it explains exactly what has happened, is happening and what is proposed.
And do share reasons you signed or memories and experiences you’ve had at the Farm.
Kentish Town City Farm was founded in 1972 in order to create social inclusion. It’s in our Constitution as a charity, and we still believe that everyone belongs here and should have equal access to connecting with nature and our community.
But our Trustees now believe we can’t afford to include everyone, so we are now facing the biggest crisis in our 47 year history.
“When I’m at the Farm I feel what I do has value. I have value.” Volunteer with additional needs.
In January, our tiny Board of four Trustees, none of whom live and only one works in Camden, decided they wanted to cut services to predominantly local residents. This took the form in late March of the announcement to begin a redundancy process, placing all 10 salaried staff ‘at risk’. They have admitted that this action will have an effect on many farm programmes, with the closure of the Horse Programme highlighted in particular. This means Therapeutic Riding for People with Disabilities, Pony Club for young Camden residents that would never otherwise be able to afford a riding lesson and weekend pony and donkey rides for small children would be gone. The impact on individuals and their carers, unable to access similar provision, would be devastating and none of them have even been consulted.
There also seems to be no proposed future for any Under 5’s activities and a significant reduction in the Education Programme which offers valuable lessons to school classes of all ages who come from many London boroughs. The inclusion of adult volunteers with special needs, work experience and D of E children and our Young Farmers scheme will definitely suffer due to staffing cuts, and the proposed new closing time of 4pm will prevent the engagement of young people after school. There is also suggestion that they will remove our cow Shirley, and that they will cage all of our free range poultry who are first to greet visitors day in and day out.
The Board of Trustees claim that the reason for this redundancy process is purely financial. The staff team and other farm supporters believe this is not the case. At the Annual General Meeting on the 20th November 2018, the then Chair of the Board stated that the Farms financial reserves were more than the required minimum. Each year, the Farm receives a generous grant from Camden Council and raises almost £100,000 in self-generated income from activities including corporate team days, educational visits and festivals. If finances were in trouble, why had the board not flagged this up? As Trustees of a charity, keeping tabs on finances is one of the most important tasks they are expected to undertake.
It could also be said that this began when the trustees served an eviction notice shortly before the AGM to Terry Child, who has served voluntarily as the farm’s on site caretaker for 18 years. His role has proved integral to the safety of our animals, and preventing trespass and serious criminal activities. Staff and supporters collaborated to offer their considerable local connections to provide professional builders and decorators to re-develop the cottage for Terry to remain, as well as use other parts as a new drop in for visitors. Trustees, however, have kept staff and local people at arm’s length despite agreeing initially to work with them to come to a solution.
The staff team believe that due to their persistent questions about the governance and leadership of the Farm in the past 2.5 years, the Board want to get rid of “troublemakers” and are using redundancy as a cover. At the same time, they are using this as an opportunity to eventually remodel the farm into an organisation that is more like a gentrified tourist attraction, rather than a working farm that serves the most vulnerable members of the community.
The Board have severely misunderstood that the current team is critical to the farm’s sustainability as a haven and support for local people. They are not resistant to change, but not at the cost to the integrity of the Farm and its original purpose. Staff members come from the locality and are familiar with its needs. This has never been more poignant than in recent times, with the vulnerable local youth community and associated knife crime at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
“With all the recent issues with knife crime and youth centres closing it is essential the farm remains open. Children need a reason to get up whether that is because they want to groom a goat, muck out the pigs, ride a horse or collect eggs...the farm is able to be that reason providing them with the responsibility some children are so desperate to receive.” Jade Burke, Child educator with MSc in psychology, local resident and user of the farm since childhood.
At no point before the announcement of potential redundancies have the team been consulted on the new farm structure or ways to prevent such drastic measures. However, in the wake of this threat they have come together to provide a workable counter proposal which outlines offering to cut wages and volunteer to meet the community’s needs, develop social capital and preserve their reputation by delivering what our funders and supporters expect from us.
We need your help to show how integral the farm is to you and the community.
- One way to do this is to show the number of people and organisations that use and appreciate our services and staff via this online petition. Please sign and share across your networks as you feel is appropriate. Please use #HOOF #HandsOffOurFarm #KTCF anywhere you can.
- You could also try emailing the following people to share your concerns over the proposed changes
- You can donate to help keep our staff and services here
- Please follow us on social media at our new Twitter campaign handle @HOOFktcf, Facebook @ktcityfarm and Instagram @kentishtowncityfarm
- Or pop in for more information and to share your concerns. 7 days a week 9-5pm
Thank you, from all volunteers, involved Members and staff at KTCF.
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0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000!