You don’t need to take your family to the countryside to experience life on a farm. City farms give children the chance to stroke cows, feed chickens and ride donkeys. But that’s not all....
1. City farms are a wonderful antidote to concrete-constrained city life, an unexpected urban oasis for children to unkink, unplug and explore. Many are in the most unlikely of places, which simply adds to their charm (and convenience!), like London’s Kentish Town Farm, the UK’s oldest city farm at 45 years old, rising up from the side of the railway line or 32-acre Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs, with Canary Wharf as a surreal backdrop.
2. A day on a city farm gives children the chance to get up close to animals with regular petting, feeding and even riding sessions on offer. One in 10 children believe a cow is the size of a double decker bus and one in eight children from London don’t even know that cows moo, recent research has discovered. This lack of familiarity with animals is all the more shocking when you think how children are intrigued and curious to know more about them, whether it’s the joy of stroking a rabbit’s soft ears to the thrill of feeding a pony or seeing a sow feeding her litter of squealing piglets.
3. Nothing tastes as delicious as locally grown produce. A visit to a city farm gives children the opportunity to see food being grown, lend a hand with weeding, sowing and picking - and eat the mouth-watering recipes made from fresh produce, like pressed apple juice and baked treats at city farm cafés. Kids also get a chance to see honey bee hives, collect eggs and even milk a patient cow.
The disconnect between the food we enjoy and understanding how it’s produced was revealed to shocking effect in the same research, which discovered nearly two fifths of four-year-olds think cows drink milk rather than produce it and one in five think milk comes straight from the fridge or supermarket. That’s why it’s so important we give our children a taste of country life, even in the city.
Many city farms hold regular family cooking sessions, making child-friendly treats like pizza and apple pie to take home.
4. Intriguing as farmyard animals are, many city farms are also home to rare breed animals and more unusual creatures, like friendly ferrets, alpacas, chipmunks and even a tarantula at Sheffield’s Heeley City Farm.
5. City farms give your children a chance to get stuck into a new hobby at very reasonable rates, with weekly sessions and holiday clubs. Your child could learn to ride (many offer cheap prices for local disadvantaged children), enjoy learning how to make a fire from scratch at bushcraft classes, gain hands-on experience on a young farmer course or learn how to weave and knit with soft alpaca hair, to name just a few possibilities.
6. Kids get the chance to just be kids, with space to run around and explore outside, climb trees and test their strength and courage in exciting play areas, sit and ponder on the side of a wildlife pond at one of the bigger farms and race through beautiful native wildflower meadows humming with insects.
7. For unusual activities and experience you can’t beat a city farm. How about pig racing or having an owl on your arm? What’s going to impress your kids most (and their friends when they’re regaled with stories): being cooped up indoors glued to screens or getting to grips with a ferret?
These are the stand-out memories you’ll be making with your family when you head down to a city farm.