Gorgie City Farm builds on success of News-backed appeal

Crippling debts and a slump in funding saw it faced with the threat of imminent closure.

Tuesday, 30th May 2017, 9:40 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:29 pm
One year on after almost closing down Eddie Wilkinson (Business Development Manager) and Helen Syme (Corporate Fundraising Officer) feeds the Boer Goats and 7 week old large black piglets. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

But a lot can happen in 12 months and now Gorgie City Farm has set its eyes on the future – with things looking a lot brighter.

Following the success of its £100,000 community appeal, the farm is now planning to expand its offering, with everything from yoga to corporate challenge days among the ideas being trialled.

The free-to-enter venue has now secured the lease for its site for the next 40 years, with the new activities all launched with a long-term future in mind.

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And visitor numbers have soared since the Evening News-backed fundraising appeal was launched last spring.

Chief executive Josiah Lockhart said creating a sustainable business model would allow the farm to be enjoyed for generations to come.

He said: “The appeal was really a way to help bide the farm some time to help put things in place to help it be more sustainable.

“It allowed us to update our funding strategy and work closer with businesses in the community, tidy up the site a bit and do what we do better. We are talking a lot more about what’s coming and our visitor numbers have increased hugely in the past year on the back of the appeal, from 160,000 to 220,000.

“People are supporting us more [and] although we are a free site, people are often donating more when they come in.”

One of the ways the farm is hoping to expand its offering comes in the form of hiring out its office space for companies to use for team planning days and board meetings.

The team has also been trialling the farm as a venue for corporate challenge days, in which firms help with everyday maintenance tasks such as building chicken coops and renovating the sheep shed. So far the challenge days have brought more than 200 people through the farm.

Corporate fundraising manager Helen Syme said: “Being out in the fresh air and getting their hands dirty is a great experience for the groups and it’s invaluable for us.

“Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to tackle some of the ‘big jobs’ on the farm.

“As part of their challenge, we take them on a farm tour at lunch time, so they get to meet some of our ‘residents’ and many of our volunteers, some of whom have additional support needs.

“It’s a great opportunity to see how the farm works.”

For those who fancy something a bit more relaxing, the farm will also be trialling weekly yoga sessions every Friday at 8am.

Plans are also afoot to re-open the cafe, which was forced to close amid last year’s budget constraints, for three days a week from this summer.

Mr Lockhart added: “The one thing the third sector knows right now is that there’s not going to be much money in the future.

“All the grants bodies are reducing their amounts. It’s just about creating a more resilient model that helps us enter that new phase of uncertainty.

“We are constantly thinking of new things. It’s just being strategic about what we offer.”