It’s no secret that at Joules we love the countryside. We think it’s so important that children get to experience the great outdoors and that the countryside be accessible to all. Here we chat to our charity partner, Farms for City Children, who helps to do just that.
Started in 1976 by the children’s author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare, Farms for City Children offers urban children from all over the country the opportunity to spend a week living and lending a hand on a working farm. We can’t shout their praises enough which is why we wrote this post so that you can find out more about the wonderful work they do.
“Almost 100,000 children have been to one of our farms. But it should be millions. It’s a week that builds their self-confidence and self-worth as they work on the farm, a week full of fun too, the most memorable week of their young lives. What we do is more necessary than ever as children become ever more disconnected from the countryside, the environment, and the source of the food they eat.”
Michael Morpurgo, OBE, author, Founder and Trustee
Farms for City Children is a national charity that gives children the chance to become an integral part of one of our three working farms in Devon, Pembrokeshire and Gloucestershire for a whole week. During their stay the children and their teachers live and work at the farms, explore the countryside, and find out where good food comes from. They also discover self-confidence as they conquer fears, grow in self-belief as they overcome challenges as part of hard working teams, develop new friendships, create stories and poems filled with the vibrant sounds and language of the rural environment, and learn to see a bigger, brighter future than they might realise exists beyond their crowded city horizons or day-to-day struggles.
Farms for City Children welcomes 3,000 children per year for a week-long stay on the farms. When they’re there, children participate in the seasonal farming tasks of the week: there are no pick-and-mix preferences or opt-outs – these are purposeful activities pegged to the farming calendar. The charity subsidises over 60% of the true cost of a week on the farm, making it as affordable as possible for all families, whatever their circumstance.
“Some of the children we took to the farms had very difficult and chaotic lives. We took them out of a very difficult environment where they were unable to socialise and didn’t know how to share and put them into a totally different world. It was a haven where they could thrive.”
Teacher from London
This year, Farms For City Children planned to welcome more children to our farms than ever before. But unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic closed schools and temporarily ended residential trips. Our immediate priority was how we could support the children we work with even if they couldn’t visit. Many of them would have no access to outside space, and would not have been able to see their friends. We were very aware of what a difficult time this would be for them.
Initially our Farm School Managers recorded videos for schools on topics such as sowing seeds. With no visitors to eat the home grown produce, we started delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to schools, including those who should have been visiting. We also delivered them to other community groups, food banks and social enterprises, and sold them locally to raise funds.
And at last, we are delighted to welcome children back to the farms! In September 2020, Farms for City Children opened the farm gates to local schools, youth groups, looked-after children, and other groups of children and young people from within our regions. These small groups visit for a half day or whole day to escape the trauma of life during Covid, by spending time in the countryside, working alongside our farmers to look after the livestock and grow fresh fruits and vegetables. There will also be space and time for children to roam the fields, explore the forest and woodland areas, and to enjoy being together in a Covid-safe outdoor environment. After months of confinement and isolation we know that children need to be together, outdoors, more than even before. And, as soon as the government allow it, we hope to return to offering residential visits for school and other groups of children from farther afield.
Thank you so much for chatting to us Farms For City Children!
If you’d like to support their amazing work then click on the link below to find out more about how you can help.