Alison Johnstone argues for a secure future for Gorgie City Farm.
I’ve spent my life in Edinburgh, and while I’m older than Gorgie City Farm, I can’t remember life before it. When my daughter was small, we spent many happy hours there and I particularly enjoyed being a parent helper on a primary school visit. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed visiting the Farm, mostly for enjoyment, but also to help understand its funding challenges and measures put in place to ensure sustainability.
It’s no exaggeration to describe Gorgie City Farm, one of the last urban farms in Scotland, as a unique asset. I’m staggered that its doors are currently closed, and they must be re-opened.
I can only imagine how the 23 staff felt when they learned on Friday 1 November that the farm was closing and that they had lost their jobs.
The news about the difficulties facing the farm come as a bolt out of the blue, and this aspect of the announcement is deeply troubling.
There’s a fundraising page up and running, a result of excellent work by staff member Hannah Ryan. I’ve no doubt this page will raise the £100,000 it seeks, a clear indication of the esteem in which the farm is held by many. The Evening News has worked hard, too, to highlight the challenges the farm faces and to promote the fundraising effort. My Green councillor colleague Gavin Corbett is working hard on options and keeping people up to date.
The Farm attracts 200,000 visitors annually and while we might enjoy learning about the animals and catching up in the café, the positive impact of the Farm on the huge numbers of volunteers it has supported and trained can’t be understated.
Staff had no warning of the closure, according to the page, so they weren’t given the chance to make a last-minute appeal to the public earlier. Yet, as I write this, I can see the pounds pouring in.
As we work together to turn this around, it’s vital that we understand the circumstances that lead to the liquidation of this irreplaceable Edinburgh institution. But we need to look to the future too. Let’s look at what the Farm could continue to deliver, given the chance. It can be at the heart of much work in the Curriculum for Excellence, connecting our young people with nature, food production and animals, helping develop empathy for other creatures.
When the cost of an afternoon at the Christmas Market remains beyond the means of too many Edinburgh folk, Gorgie Farm excelled at inclusion, providing work experience for people with additional support needs, many of whom go on to work as a result. The Farm has always ensured that people and families on a low income could spend a day out without worrying about the impact on their budget.
I’ve lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling on the Scottish Government, the local authority and all who appreciate the great work that goes on in the farm to come together to ensure it has a viable future. Let’s work together to make sure that everyone appreciate what’s at stake here.
For further information see #SaveGorgieFarm on Twitter, @FarmEdinburgh and, if you can, please support the funding effort. Gorgie Farm is much, much more than an attraction