Hackney City Farm was established in 1984. It was an initiative brought to life by enthusiastic members of the local community who were inspired by the success of the newly formed Kentish Town City Farm. Their aim was to give youngsters and local people the opportunity to experience farming. Since then, the farm, managed by the current farm manager Chris Pounds, has developed to become the successful community resource it is today.
The farm and local community have benefited from the dedication, enthusiasm and skills imparted by the many staff and volunteers that have been involved in the farm over the last 22 years. It is a living and growing community resource that will continue to develop into the future.
In the early 1800s the site was occupied by farmers and market gardeners supplying fresh produce to the city of London. Later as the area became built up, a brewery occupied the site and beer was brewed from late 1880 until the 1930s. West’s brewery as it was then, supplied beer to its own public houses in Hackney Road and nearby Bethnal Green. The water used in the brewing process was supplied by a well, still present today (although capped) in the front garden.
Over the next ten years, various businesses were based at the site ranging from furniture makers tobutton manufacturers. From 1940 onwards the farm was occupied by the Jeakins Family who ran a road haulage company. (Helen Jeakins, a descendent of this local family was one of the Livestock and Education workers). Later in 1982 local people formed the farm, and kept a few animals in the nearby Covent gardens. Two years later Hackney City Farm took over its present site and was given one hundred years lease by Hackney Council.
Over the past twenty years, the farm has evolved from a derelict and dirty lorry park into a thriving popular community resource. It houses a wide range of farm animals as well as a rich cottage garden. The older outbuildings have all been renovated into animal housing and much of the main building has undergone refurbishment. We have built a straw bale building and added various new container offices. It is now the home to the award winning Frizzante café, a well equipped pottery studio, Bike Yard East, Magnificent Revolution, meeting and training rooms and offices for Kindle and Fonic.
During its early years, Hackney City Farm received a moderate core grant from the local authority (London Borough of Hackney). Over the last three years, this has been greatly reduced in line with council cutbacks. In response the farm has concentrated on securing a sustainable future by developing areas of social enterprise.
As a local resource, the farm offers many opportunities for learning and leisure to a wide cross-section of the community. In the commercial market it also offers licensed office workspace to other charities, supplies fresh produce and growing mediums and sells souvenirs and toys. The result is a successful mix of commercial and community activities enhancing the farm’s sustainability whilst investing in the local community.
We are now looking at both how we can continue to replicate a farm in the city and carry out the role of a farm – seed, nurture and harvest from the city and perform a metabolic function.