Sunday, 26 May 2019 08:58

Farming experience for Totteridge Academy

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Two swarms of bees are the first arrivals at a school farm which is being established at Totteridge Academy under the care of charity farm manager Sarah Alun-Jones Two swarms of bees are the first arrivals at a school farm which is being established at Totteridge Academy under the care of charity farm manager Sarah Alun-Jones
A school farm to be established in a 5.8 acre-field next to Totteridge Academy, in Barnet Lane, is to start off with a mini flock of Shetland sheep and several beehives.

Grow – www.grow-up.co – a recently formed educational charity, is hoping the farm will play a vital role in widening pupils’ general knowledge and experience by helping them to learn more about farming, growing food and other agricultural and community activities.

To promote the opening of its working farm – and to launch a fund-raising campaign for a £150,000 multi-purpose outdoor classroom – Grow is holding an open day at Totteridge Academy (Saturday 18 May) which will feature a pop-up farm with a selection of animals and poultry.

Sarah Alun-Jones (30), who will manage the farm for Grow, said opening a school farm in Totteridge was a pilot project in the line with the charity’s aim of developing an educational movement that rethought the relationship between the community, land and food.

“We are delighted to have linked up with Totteridge Academy and a we are so fortunate that there is a spare field next door to the school, which is ideal for a school farm project, right in the middle of the Green Belt.”

A crowdfunding appeal – www.spacehive.com/growtotteridge -- is hoping to raise the money for the outdoor classroom which would have facilities for cooking, workshops and community events.

If the £150,000 appeal target can be reached by September, Grow will apply for planning permission for its multi-purpose building.

Ms Alun-Jones, who has worked at several other city and school farms, says the main handicap, in closely built-up areas, is a lack of greenery and land for grazing animals.

“But there is ample room in this south-facing field, close to Dollis Valley brook, and it so different to an urban school farm because it is surrounded by woods and hedges.

“Here we have lots of space both for rearing animals and poultry, and for growing fruit and vegetables.

“We hope to expand once we have opened our outdoor classroom and teaching area.

“Initially we are starting off with a flock of 14 Shetland sheep and hopefully four hives in our apiary.

“The sheep, on loan from a school farm in Tooting which is short of grazing land, are a very hardy breed. They will look after themselves, eating grass or whatever they can find in the hedgerows.

“So far we have been donated two swarms of bees, one from Finsbury Park and another Muswell Hill, and our beekeeper Sean Hearn will be caring for them by natural bee-keeping practices, letting them swarm and only taking very limited amounts of honey.”

“Pupils are already lining up in rotas to look after the sheep and prepare for the poultry we hope to get later in the year.

“There is so much spin off from school farm when it comes to class work in home food technology, nutrition, science and creative writing.”

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3 comments

  • Comment Link Sunday, 26 May 2019 16:55 posted by gremlin, barnet

    "Grow will apply for planning permission for its multi-purpose building."
    basically a cafe and 'classroom' in the middle of greenbelt land

  • Comment Link Sunday, 26 May 2019 19:28 posted by AliBy

    Yes, gremlin. Doesn’t the school have classrooms? How is a field “spare” in the middle of the GreenBelt? And the main handicap normally is a lack of greenery and land for grazing animals. So, don’t build on it!

  • Comment Link Monday, 03 June 2019 10:44 posted by Local Resident

    What a fantastic project, another example of how The Totteridge Academy is thriving and evolving.

    The project will provide more learning experiences for local children, a practical understanding of sustainable farming and an affinity with nature and the outdoors (at a time when there is widespread moral panic about screen time and an almost complete lack of community facilities for children in the borough).

    Bravo Grow and The Totteridge Academy!

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