‘Being around nature, animals, children and visitors is priceless’

Vauxhall City farm, just a short bus or Tube ride from Brixton, today reopens after the lockdown. Simone Richardson talked to chief executive Monica Tyler

Oman with pig
Monica spends time with Jenny the talking pig

While Vauxhall City Farm was closed to the public during the lockdown, work for Monica Tyler and her team did not stop.

Animals still needed to be fed and cleaned, despite the enforced closure depriving the farm, which is a charity, of 80% of its income.

Monica has worked at the farm since December 2018. The daughter of Windrush generation parents – Callie and Verna, originally from Kitts and St Vincent who moved to London in 1960 – Monica is their third-born daughter between two brothers, St. Clare and Darren, and sister Sandra – all being London born and bred.

Monica now has two of her own daughters – Alisha, 23, and Tiarna, 21. Both have moved out, but Alisha works with her mum doing voluntary work at the farm.

“I manage the day-to-day operations on Vauxhall City Farm,” says Monica.

Tasks for a typical day are “ensuring the daily operations run smoothly, staff and volunteers are clear what the priorities are for the day, fundraising, answering correspondence and planning and putting measures in place to improve our offer and services.”

alpaca
Tom, one of the farm’s three alpacas

Her favourite part of the day is spending a few minutes talking to Jenny the Pig. “She is such an intelligent animal, it’s as if she talks back at you,” says Monica.

The farm has a riding school, farmyard, horse arena, paddocks, gardens and a cafe.

“Before Covid 19, we would open our doors to 50,000 visitors a year,” says Monica.

“It’s free to enter, but we rely on donations from outside. 

“We work with hundreds of schools, providing animal husbandry and horticulture workshops, volunteering work placements, art classes, and even hire out space.”

two women in urban farm
Monica with livestock coordinator Sophie Howard,

Monica’s main focus during lockdown was to keep the farm going “given that we lost of 80% of our income when the pandemic hit”.

With a decades-long career as a senior manager and consultant in the voluntary sector, Monica’s reward at the farm is in what she does.

“The farm is a small charity, so the salary is based on what it can afford,” she says.

“The satisfaction that I get from being around nature, animals, children and visitors is priceless. Serving people well – families, and communities – is my greatest joy.’’

Monica has also had to deal with issues arising from the decision of the charity to give notice to six allotment holders on it land so that it can create a community garden on its land.

“Since then I have received insults and abuse on social media, particularly on Twitter,” she says. Some people have even shouted abuse at staff and volunteers from outside the farm.

Damage to the existing kitchen garden on two occasions meant more security had to be installed.

And while a campaign to reinstate the allotments continues, Monica is clear about the farm’s plans: “This is about giving a wider group of people access to the farm so that the local community, particuarly those of BAME heritage, have the opportunity to come and see what we do here.

woman, man and chicken
Monica with volunteer Henry and Celine the chicken

“I am considering holding an event to celebrate Windrush Day which happened during lockdown. Many of our local residents are part of the Windrush generation and this would be a great way to acknowledge them.’’ 

If you or your kids want to meet Jenny the talking pig, Tom the alpaca, or Celine the chicken – and their human and animal companions, nothing could be simpler.

The farm’s amended opening times are

Tuesday 10.30am -3.30pm

Wednesday Closed

Thursday Closed

Friday 10.30am – 3.30pm

Saturday 10.30am – 3.30pm

Sunday 10.30am – 3.30pm

Monday Closed.

You can also raise money for the farm without leaving home

woman in doorway

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