Wellgate Community Farm is a 1.5 acre city farm in Romford, Essex. It was established in 1982 with the aim of creating ‘a growing place for groups and individual through education, training, therapy and recreation’. It is home to a variety of farm and domestic animals including cows, sheep, goats, ponies, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs. The farm also has a horticultural plot, a small conservation area, a classroom, a workshop, wheelchair-accessible pathways, a picnic area and toilets/hand washing facilities.
Wellgate’s educational work encompasses a number of different activities, including:
• mobile visits – taking animals from the farm to primary schools usually for key stage one children
• farm visits – providing curriculum-linked farm tours and practical demonstrations for pupils and teachers from local primary schools
• vocational development programmes – working with disengaged students from local secondary schools (see more below)
• seasonal events – such as taking ‘harvest hampers’ to schools during Harvest Festival and providing ‘hatch packs’ with incubators and eggs to schools in the springtime.
Alongside these activities, Wellgate Community Farm works in partnership with a local outdoor education centre to provide a practical personal development programme for 14-19 year olds who lack confidence and self esteem. Programme participants spend one day per week for 36 weeks carrying out practical animal care and buildings’ maintenance tasks on the farm as part of working towards vocational qualifications. There is a strong emphasis on small groups, individual attention, flexible pace and practical activities in order to build confidence, develop skills and facilitate progression. Indeed, the farm also offers a one-year City and Guild Level 1 Land Based Studies course in partnership with a local college which can provide a helpful transition for programme completers.
Liz Ellison, the farm manager, sees the benefits of an experience at the farm in terms of:
• getting up close to animals and hearing, touching and smelling them, which can help to overcome fears and increase understanding and respect for animals and their environments
• seeing a working farm, which can contribute to a better understanding of where our food comes from and how this relates to sustainable development and animal welfare issues.
For participants on the vocational programmes, there are additional benefits associated with the opportunity to develop new skills and build self-confidence through learning in an environment that is away from school. Over the last five years, 90 per cent of participants have left as ‘positive outcomes’ with 62 per cent continuing in education.
Being a community farm in an urban area, Wellgate’s accessibility to local schools both for farm visits and mobile visits can be advantageous relative to more distant locations in terms of time, travel costs and administration.
Wellgate Community Farm
Collier Row Road
T: 01708 747850