Vauxhall City Farm is one of scores of local charities heading into the unknown of a third lockdown. Simone Richardson finds out how CEO Monica Tyler and volunteers are coping and what they can offer online to animal lovers of all ages
Animals at Vauxhall City Farm are lucky to have the protection and care that Monica Tyler and her team give them.
“The farm is closed to visitors again,” laments chief executive officer Monica.
“We have had to cancel a number of our workshops, our cafe has remained closed since the November lockdown, and our riding school is closed.
“It’s challenging for the team, but having already been through two lockdowns, we have developed a way of working and helping the animals being cared for.
Watch, and you will find out more about how life on the farm now includes some difficult decisions.
Two of them, Monica points out, are “reducing our staff team to an absolute minimum, and not being able to replace retired animals.”
In human and animal form, this means that one member of staff had to leave their job and the farm’s favourite pig, Jenny, has left for her old-age retirement in Gloucestershire without being replaced.
“Jenny had been on the farm since a little piglet,” says Monica.
“We miss her terribly and were sad to see her go in December. The weekend before she left, record numbers of visitors turned up to say goodbye to her.
“She was a very popular member of the farm. Hopefully, when lockdown is over, we plan to replace her with a couple of rescue pigs.”
Chris Platt, education and partnership manager at the farm, has also been a big part of the team.
Originally an Essex boy, he moved from Basildon to Brixton via Colchester – where he worked at the town’s zoo – and then Australia, where his family live now.
“I currently live in that strange zone in between Kennington, Brixton and Camberwell. I love it. I moved back from Oz in 2018 and my partner and I decided we wanted to live in ‘proper London’,” Chris says.
They chose Brixton over Camden and Shoreditch.
“Brixton gave us more bang for our buck,” says Chris. “I’ve never looked back! The people, the things that are going on. It’s an amazing area.”
He has been in his post at the city farm for about five months and before that was a volunteer for six months – during the first lockdown.
After working with children as a teacher, his work with animals has helped him survive lockdown, he says.
“My biggest help through lockdown has been London’s green spaces.
“I’m really into birding, so I like to go out to Dulwich Wood or Myatt’s Fields and see what I can see.
“Nature is very grounding and it reminds you that the world isn’t ending, despite Covid, Brexit, Donald Trump and the like.
“I walk to work and even that 20–25 minutes every day in the fresh air really helps.”
When he was a teacher Chris could not have favourites in class, but it is allowed when it comes to animals at the farm. I asked him about his.
“Spending more time around the farm has made me more aware of the animals’ personalities,” Chris replies.
“Everyone loves the alpacas, rabbits and Jenny the pig.
“But Maple the Manx Loaghtan Sheep with some gorgeous horns that struts around like Shirley Bassey or someone is my fave!’’
Monica calculates that “since the pandemic we have lost 81% of the farm’s trading income, which was the mainstay of our income.”
“We have become wholly reliant on donations and grants to keep the farm going,” she says.
“We are very grateful to our friends and donors for keeping the farm open.
“Our Save Vauxhall City Farm GoFundMe appeal is ongoing and we would ask anyone who wishes to see our work continue to make a donation to secure our future in these challenging times.
“We also ask anyone locally wishing to volunteer, to download the volunteer application form from our website and complete and send it into us.”