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A real, working farm in the middle of the city


Free range birds
Classes and workshops
Farm shop
As its name suggests, Hackney City Farm is in the middle of an urban area. What the name doesn't mention is just how accessible the place is. The entrance is right on Hackney's main road!
The site was used for farming in the early 19th century, but between then and now it has hosted beer brewers, furniture makers and button manufacturers. It returned to its roots in 1984, when it officially reopened as Hackney City Farm. Since then, the old manufacturing buildings have been converted into animal housing. New buildings have been erected, including one made out of straw bales.
This is a registered charity, which aims to give both young people and hardened city folk an experience of farming, and animals. It's a chance for Londoners to see where their food comes from. The idea is that perhaps a visit here will inspire a healthier, happier lifestyle.
Upon entering, you'll find yourself in a large, cobbled courtyard filled with birds. The "free range" concept is applied very strictly, in that the animals are given as much freedom as the humans. They aren't shy, so if you're not careful you'll have geese stealing your food and chickens pecking your feet.
Larry the donkey, who lives in an open pasture with his goat and sheep friends, is like the farm's mascot. He's been here for fifteen years - which is still young, as donkeys can live to the age of sixty. Larry is a well-behaved, friendly creature, who likes meeting new people. His calm nature has even landed him a few parts in BBC and ITV dramas.
Bear in mind that this isn't a petting zoo. There are a few opportunities to meet some of the cuddlier animals, like rabbits and guinea pigs, but by and large this is a real, working farm. The compost heap, for example, is right there in the middle of the field for all to see - and smell! Hackney City Farm is, in other words, as authentic as can be.
Education is an important part of the organisation's work. There are regular courses in farming, with subjects like keeping chickens and cultivating mushrooms. There are craft workshops too, where you can learn anything from beginner's DIY to making your own natural soaps. Most lessons are geared towards reducing your impact on the environment.
Elsewhere, there's a pottery studio running drop-in sessions - no need to book - and a bi-monthly craft market, selling work from local makers. There's even a cycling shop, Bike Yard East, which sells accessories and does repairs.
Besides the regular workshops and classes, the farm has been known to host bigger events at unexpected times. In previous years they've celebrated the Mexican Day of the Dead, organised a spring clean and arranged a clothes swap.
Within the farm grounds is a garden, where volunteers tend fruit trees, herb beds and vegetables. Its benches are a good place to find some quiet time in the busy city. Everything that's grown is for sale at the farm shop, which also stocks dairy products and locally baked bread. If you want eggs, mind you, you'll need to get there early; they tend to sell out by 11am.
Also on site is Frizzante, a cafe and restaurant that exclusively uses ingredients from either the farm itself, or from the neighbouring county of Kent. A meal here will do as little damage to the environment as is possible in London.
Visitor Information
Hackney City Farm is open Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday), 10am to 4.30pm. Entry is FREE. 1a Goldsmiths Row, London E2 8QA. Tel: 020 7729 6381

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