What makes Rice Lane City Farm special?
Rice Lane City Farm has been a hidden green oasis in the heart of Walton for 40 years now. We are open to the public and free to access 364 days a year, we have always been free to access, and we always will be. We feel strongly that we do not want to deny access by charging for entry. But the thing that makes the farm truly special is the animals, we have given generations of young children access to farm animals in one of the most deprived urban areas in Britain. Interacting with animals has a huge positive impact on people, and we see this for ourselves on a daily basis.
“Interacting with animals influences social interaction between humans … such as trust, empathy, aggression, and a positive mood.” Frontiers in Psychology
At the same time, we provide a natural green space, the farm is situated on the site of the old Walton Cemetery made up of 24 acres of fields and natural woodland. Visitors have open access to our woodland nature trail walk, which can have wonderful health benefits.
“Natural landscape in urban areas can affect how people feel. It reduces stress and sadness, lifts the mood and makes us feel better.” Public Health England
What have we been doing in the heart of Walton for 40 years?
Such a significant milestone has allowed us to reflect on the work that has been done, the work we continue to do on a daily basis. Over the last 7 years alone we have trained, provided experience and guided 11 young people onto Veterinary Sciences courses. 10 of our work experience students have gone on to animal husbandry further education in the last 2 years.
We give work experience to students from over 35 schools each year, mainstream and special needs schools. We already provide work experience in animal husbandry, horticultural, conservation and land management, and we will add hospitality and retail with our new community hub project.
We also work closely with vulnerable adults, which can be self-referral often by word of mouth. We also take referrals from Liverpool social services and 4 job centres in Liverpool and bootle, and various agencies that work with vulnerable young adults we work with them to help them back into regular routines.
During school holidays we offer children's activities across the site. Over the last 2 years alone we have worked with 600 children and their parents, grandparents or carers.
It never ceases to amaze us how much working with animals can positively impact on children with challenging behaviour. It can even be the one factor that makes a child speak or smile on that day.
Why are we launching new projects?
We want to extend what we already do even further by increasing our impact outside of the farm. That’s why we have designed 4 new projects that focus on the core values and ethos of Rice Lane City Farm.
Permaculture and urban growing
Safe community space
Youth work and activity for children
1. Community Growing and Back Yard Veg
For 40 years we have been involved in all kinds of horticulture activities. In 2020 our 40th anniversary we want to open up our farm garden to grow our community, and so our community can grow vegetables, fruit and other plants.
We already have gardening initiatives, involving a number of groups including our newest project linked with the mental health hospital in Walton, local schools and individual volunteers. We want to develop these activities and offer a stronger more structured programme. Where they can access the community garden more regularly and receive more focussed and specialised guidance fitting in all the gardening groups into a wider vision. Where everyone can grow more and share the fruits of their labour.
We will offer schools access to a school garden on site, and seasonal projects planting veg, trees and hedges. Visitors will be encouraged to pick and eat fruit across the entire site.
The aim is simple: to get as many people as possible growing their own veg, even in their back yard, front yard, window boxes or anywhere they can.
If we had our own way every street and neighbourhood would have green space and urban gardens for all to use, where anyone could grow their own veg.
To do this anyone who wants can come to the farm and learn how to make their own vegetable planter, learn planting techniques, and take home a specially designed permaculture guide on how to get the most out of their back yard veg planters.
There are so many benefits in doing this:
- Getting stuck in with like-minded gardeners is great fun.
- Gardening is therapeutic and good exercise.
- Growing your own veg is rewarding and delicious.
- Reducing the distance food travels from soil to plate has a massive impact on reducing the carbon foot print.
- Healthier diet improves quality of life.
- Similar cities to Liverpool such as Detroit have made a huge impact by growing their own veg, why can’t we do the same here?
We want to become the first place to call when local growers need support or guidance.
2. Alternative Educaiton and Animal husbandry
At Rice Lane City Farm we have 40 years of experience providing alternative education in Liverpool and Merseyside. We provide an education environment in which young people truly thrive and offer a unique experience in Liverpool.
We want to offer the best livestock education possible to young people.
This Crowdfunder campaign will allow us to train staff to become assessors for livestock management training so we can formalise the education we already provide. We will offer recognised qualifications to support young peoples' career ambitions.
As well as providing this for young people it will become an income generator for the charity as we can offer desirable courses not available anywhere else in Liverpool, we can then offer these courses to further education institutions.
We aim to offer a number of scholarships to students who need them funded by the charity.
The other side of our education programme is alternative education bespoke to the needs of the child/young person.
- We offer work experience and training to those who want to learn or work with animals.
- We work with 3 further education colleges providing practical training to NVQ Animal Care students from across the north west.
- We run an alternative education programmes that secondary schools can buy into.
- We also work with secondary and primary schools to offer them bespoke programmes which could be one time visits or regular sessions.
- We offer bespoke activities with school groups and play groups.
- A lot of our work is with children on pathways where children have been assessed for behavioural issues.
3. Community Hub and Farm Store
Our community hub hosts all community groups, and we are developing a welcome cafe for visitors. We will increase the farm produce which can be sold from our community hub. To do this we will produce more fruit and veg from our community garden. We aim to develop the welcome cafe to offer training and work experience within hospitality and retail. Welcoming site visitors in a safe space as many days of the year as possible.
The aim is to give people opportunities to develop themselves and move on to employment.
We will offer work experience and training in hospitality and retail using our cafe and farm store.
We host a number of community groups each week in our community hub, they include
- Social walk, promoting well being.
- Chats and crafts group, a sociable group with site specific activities.
- We are launching a Sketching club from spring 2020.
- We will restart our sociable cycling group from spring.
4. Make Site Improvements
For the fourth project we want to make some improvements to our site. But we don't want to be the ones who decide what are the best improvements to make. Part of the process of this project will be to increase active participation of site visitors. We will install suggestion boxes around the farm and ask for people to come forward with proposals. We will do this by running regular events with site tours for visitors who want to learn more and take a more active role on site. Our community will design this project based on improvements they most want to see on the farm. We will offer guidance as we have a number of ideas for improvements ourselves:
- Build a Duck walk gang way through the pond area so visitors can get up close to our ducks
- Increase site access and safety with security measures that allow us to open more entrances
- Bring art work in on murals, fences and sculptures
- Interpretation boards and interactive signs for people to engage with the surroundings.
Who are we?
We are a registered charity Rice Lane Community Association, our charity number is: 517465. We run Rice Lane City Farm. We are made up of small number of employees, a group of wonderful volunteers and the trustees of the charity.
Our vice chair and farm manager were founder members of the organisation, very much involved in developing a national movement, the federation of city farms and community gardens. Who in the last 2 years have merged with care farming, to become Social Farms and Gardening. Our national movement who supports our members through advocacy training and various support programmes which can be found on: https://www.farmgarden.org.uk/
We are also one of the founder members of the European Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens https://cityfarms.org/.