Gorgie City Farm: How we can save this Edinburgh institution – Angus Robertson

With 200,000 visitors a year and a huge amount of support from the public, Gorgie City Farm should be saved for the future, writes Angus Robertson.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 6:00 am
The gates are closed at Gorgie City Farm for what could be the final time. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The gates are closed at Gorgie City Farm for what could be the final time. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Gorgie City Farm is an Edinburgh institution. Hundreds of thousands of parents, kids and other visitors have been through its gates, getting valuable hands-on experience about happy farm animals.

Visitors have been able to find sheep, goats, pigs, cows, chickens and geese at Gorgie City Farm and also small domestic pets at the Pet Lodge. For many city kids, it is their first ­experience with farm animals and their natural environment.

In addition to the animals, there is a well-tended garden with a special educational section, greenhouses, a poly-tunnel and a vegetable garden with raised beds as well as a cafe for visitors. Gorgie City Farm has been successful because of the support of volunteers, many of whom have additional support needs. A range of organisations have referred people who could benefit from the experience – working directly with the animals, in support of visiting educational groups or in the gardens. All of this has ­contributed to the farm being such a well-attended attraction.

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Staff at Edinburgh's Gorgie City Farm had no warning of funding problem which le...

Last Friday, in a bolt from the blue, liquidators arrived to tell stunned staff that the farm was closing down for financial reasons.

No advance notice was given and some of the staff and volunteers learned about it via social media. Many volunteers who worked with the animals didn’t even have the chance to say their goodbyes. How appalling.

What went wrong?

Gorgie City Farm has not been a profit-making enterprise. It has worked as a charity with the support of public and private sector partners and the generosity of many individual donors.

In recent years, it has gone through financial difficulties, with a campaign in 2016 backed by the Evening News raising more than £100,000 to keep things going.

Since then, things have clearly not been put on a long-term sustainable footing. Many of the financial facts are not yet public and members of the board have not spoken publicly about the ­problems.

Apparently they didn’t give any notice to their major financial backers and didn’t make any efforts to launch a fundraising campaign to keep things going. There will be plenty of time to get to the bottom of this and learn the lessons of what went wrong, but in the meantime there is a huge groundswell of support to keep Gorgie City Farm going.

In only a few short days more than half of the £100,000 fundraising target has been reached. If you can donate and support the campaign, please visit www.gofundme.com and give generously.

Edinburgh civic leaders have been meeting officials to understand the options and Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey is convening a meeting of officers and local councillors this week. This is precisely the kind of leadership that is required to save what can be saved, and see what the options are to maintain the city farm.

Given the level of public support, there has to be a future for Gorgie City Farm. It has more than 200,000 visitors a year and this year alone there have been 237 volunteers educating 1,961 children. Gorgie City Farm has been an integral part of the Edinburgh community for 40 years. It must have a sustainable future.