Collingwood Children's Farm!
In 1979, a community committee, with support from the former Collingwood City Council, leased a small area of the Convent for a Children's Farm. The Committee hoped children living in an urban environment, often without backyards, could learn to care for animals and nature and also have fun outdoors. Local schools and other groups helped with fencing, gardening and animal care. Members of the Greek Elderly Citizens and the Turkish Welfare Group helped clear weeds and carve out the community plots.
Since the 1980s, State and Local governments have funded some of the Farm's costs. State and Federal Labour governments supported our successful bid for a much larger area of land. Now the Collingwood Children's Farm Committee of Management manages this Crown land site. Service clubs and philanthropic trusts help the Farm, but the largest part of our operational costs always comes from entry fees, donations and through the work of volunteers.
Sustainable Farming and Environmental Practices
The philosophies of permaculture, Landcare and organic farming guide what we do here.
Zones of Activity
We have created a number of zones of activity at the Farm. The links between the activities are important. An example is the orchard which is downhill from the duck yard. The water from the duck pond flows first into a drain lined with reeds that filter the nutrients. It then passes down the slope through underground pipes and is distributed throughout the orchard to fertilize the trees and produce good quality fruit. Most of the fruit is sold or used in food prepared for our family days. The fallen fruit is cleaned up by the chooks and ducks. This reduces the carryover of pests and diseases to the new season's fruit. The manure from these birds is quickly taken up by the plants growing under the trees.
In the times of the Convent, the layout of the Farm was different. At one stage more than thirty cows grazed along the riverbank. Today we have fewer animals and concentrate on vegetable and fruit crops, as well as growing food for our animals. Using natural ways, we are working towards building up the richness and vitality of soil that has been heavily farmed for years.
Tree Crops and Habitat
Today, farmers and community groups plant trees on riverbanks and in plots to provide habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife. Our tallest trees, planted in the 1980s, have attracted more birds. They eat some of our crops but they also help control insect pests - a good arrangement overall. As well as shelter and wildlife habitat, some of the tree plantings have other purposes - shelter, shade, animal fodder, timber, erosion control and nutrient uptake, and of course nuts and fruit.
There is plenty of work at the Farm for lots of people. Volunteers, staff and young people work together to maintain the Farm. There are always plans for improvements when money and labour become available. The community spirit that this teamwork engenders is a product we value highly. Join in and get your hands dirty!