Former staff at Edinburgh's Gorgie City Farm 'overwhelmed' by public support as crowdfunding campaign nears £64,000

Campaign to secure future for site is buoyed by donations and messages

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th November 2019, 5:31 pm
Hannah Ryan started the GoFundMe page just last Saturday evening

THE woman who started the crowdfunding campaign to help secure a future for Edinburgh's community farm has described how she and other former staff have been "overwhelmed" by the public's generosity.

The GoFundMe appeal which Hannah Ryan launched last Saturday night has already reached almost £64,000 towards its £100,000 target.

Ms Ryan said she had decided to start the page after the shock closure of the much-loved Gorgie City Farm the day before. Liquidators arrived on site without warning and spoke to individual employees who were there. The farm's board did not call a meeting and some of the workers learned on social media they had lost their jobs.

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The farm was closed last Friday when liquidators arrived on site without warning

Ms Ryan, who had only recently been recruited as a marketing assistant, said: "I knew I had two paths I could go down - I could either stop everything and really feel sorry for myself and for the farm and not do anything, or the other path was to go full pelt and mkae something of this - and that was the route I chose to go down.

"But I did not expect so much support - I don't think any of us expected this much support from the public.

"We have been leaning on that support more than the public probably realise.

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"We've had 3000 donors, 10,000 shares and 3000 followers. There are so many people have donated £5, £10, £20 and they emailed to say 'I'm sorry I can;t give more'. I want to hug these people - every little bit helps. We would not have got this far if we didn't have everyone just giving what they could. From little things, big things grow."

Gorgie City Farm employed 23 staff, attracted 200,000 visitors a year and offered a safe place for volunteers with additional learning needs.

The former staff are using the working title "Edinburgh Community Farm" for their efforts to save the site.

And Ms Ryan put the level of public support down to the affection for the farm built up over the decades.

"Gorgie Farm has been around for 40 years. It's knitted into the fabric of Edinburgh. We are getting so many message from people who were taken to Gorgie Farm as children and they have been taking their children and they're devastated that's not going to continue for their children's children."

The staff have been working up to 15 hours a day in their bid to ensure a future for the site.

"I've been falling asleep writing emails," said Ms Ryan. "All the staff members are really feeling very tired, but we know we have to do something."

And she thanked people for emailing and posting messages and pictures on social media.

The liquidators have made clear it is not a question of saving Gorgie City Farm as an organisation and that anything that happens on the site in future will have to be a new venture.

But the former staff say they are looking at preserving the ethos and spirit of the work carried out by the farm

Ms Ryan said: "We understand it might not be Gorgie City Farm but we are fighting to keep it as similar to Gorgie City Farm as possible."

The city council, who helped fund the farm and own the site, have said there are "credible charities" who have expressed an interest in taking over the farm.

Ms Ryan said everyone had been encouraged by the news and also a statement by the council that the site is not for sale.

"All the former staff are really hopeful, especially with all the news from the council ansd the liquidation company, just reiterating that the animals are not neing sent for slaughter, the're staying at the farm for now, we think that's really good news because it does give the opportunity for things to move forward."

She hopes more will become clear next week. But she said: "We can't rush these things. We have to make sure the council has time to talk to people and talk to the charities that have signalled interest.

"This came totally out of the blue for us all. The 'Edinburgh Community Farm' group, made up of former staff, isn't the result of months of detailed planning. We are people with passion.

"For anyone who's worked in the charity sector, they will understand that huge campaigns don't happen over night. For us, it has happened over night and we are doing the best with the information that we have to make a plan for the future.

"What we have is passion for the farm, the volunteers, the families and the lasting impact this organisation had in the past. We want to help to keep that alive."