Life On The Farm!

What is it they say about never working with children or animals?

Well the exception has to be Rice Lane City Farm in the heart of Walton, where they do both, and absolutely love it!

The 24-acre site including 14 acres of woodland is the home to a very diverse project offering various help and support, not to mention training and educational opportunities, to all in the local community.

“The idea for what we do here originated in 1979 from the Rice Lane Community Organisation,” manager Maria Hornsby explains.

“The idea was before its time really, looking at the importance of growing healthy food and healthy diets for children.

“We have done a lot of work with young people and over the last decade or so have moved into green therapy with vulnerable adults and helping with mental health issues.

“All of the people we work with are called volunteers and not clients, and we offer a level playing field for everyone who comes here to move forward.

“There are so many different activities available.

“We are open seven days a week and also run a lot of events and activities for children through the summer months be it food growing, arts and crafts, and working with animals.

“We are responding to community needs and offering young people somewhere to go, as well as working closely with schools.

“It is great to open the door for young people in a city where normally they might not get to see many young animals.”

It is certainly an idyllic location, not far off the beaten track, and in a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.

Rice Lane City Farm also offers qualifications including NVQs in general agriculture, environmental conservation and horticulture.

There is much pride in the fact that five young women have gone off to study veterinary sciences in recent years, all returning to Rice Lane during their breaks to put their studies to practical use.

There is also the aim of helping marginalised young people from within society, aiming for greater diversity and a programme of multi-cultural education.

As always, such crucial work within the community requires funding, and the Steve Morgan Foundation are midway through a three-year grant programme of £54,000 to help Rice Lane City Farm with their running costs.

Maria says that support has been essential in, excusing the animal reference, keeping the Wolves from the door!

“To be brutally honest, if we hadn’t got the grant from the Steve Morgan Foundation, I don’t think we would be here now,” she explains.

“We were in the position of having our funding taken away at quite short notice with the Local Authority battling with austerity and a couple of other grants coming to an end.

“We applied to the Steve Morgan Foundation and they gave us a lot of support – they came out to see us and explained the whole process.

“They were one of the bigger charities that understood what we are doing here, that we are not just playing with animals but using what they can offer as therapy with vulnerable adults, and mental health issues with young people.

“A lot of funding organisations don’t necessarily want to fund animal charities, but to me the animals here – as part of our work- are just as important as a football would be to a young footballer or a set of decks to an aspiring DJ.

“There is just far more responsibility when working with animals and, without the funding received, we have livestock that would have had to be slaughtered, which would have been a huge loss to the local community.

“The Steve Morgan Foundation really understood the concept of what we are about, and we remain very grateful for their support.

“That baseline money gave us breathing space both to continue to work and develop, and also put together a Heritage Lottery bid, so we can continue to carry out such vital work for the residents of the local community.”

Never work with children or animals? Nonsense!  The staff and volunteers at Rice Lane City Farm are doing both with exceptional results!



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