The community farm began in 2013 when a local group took on the lease of an overgrown 17-acre council site outside Wigan. The site was transformed into a community farm, which now covers some 30 acres, with the help of incredible volunteers, many of which consider themselves vulnerable or socially excluded. Greenslate Community Farm provides a supportive environment for them to grow in confidence and recover a sense of belonging to their community.
Greenslate also has a care farm, providing a range of therapeutic services for socially excluded adults. The farm has also taken on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
“The good thing about the farm – and one of the things I constantly say to them – is that this is a farm of broken things,” says Rhiannon Jones, project co-ordinator. “We take in something broken, and it doesn’t mean that it’s life is over – we just transform it and turn it into something else.”
Opening its doors to visitors old and new
The development of the strawbale building has transformed the project from a small, community-led endeavour into a medium-sized business. This has in turn grown its public profile, and footfall to the farm has increased, with many families and people unfamiliar with farming visiting the site to meet the animals and check out the onsite café and farm shop.
Coping with Covid-19 – box schemes and online activities
Initially, the team at Greenslate thought the pandemic was precisely what they were built for – helping the local community during a time of food shortages and limited travel. Using existing food suppliers, they employed a team of volunteers to deliver food boxes to people in isolation. However, unable to do usual fundraising by hosting events, the farm realised it was quickly running low on funds, and sadly this part of the venture had to discontinue.
So, the farm pivoted and embarked on a different sort of box scheme. It put together weekly craft boxes full of materials and activity sheets and set up its own YouTube channel. Care farm attendees tuned into a livestream every week as staff demonstrated how to complete a craft project, or hosted exercise mornings and yoga sessions.
Future of the farm
The farm is taking a moment to pause and appreciate all it has already accomplished. The impact of the pandemic forced the team to rewrite its business plan from scratch – the focus now is providing a higher quality service on a smaller scale. The team are taking stock of existing resources and looking after its determined staff, who worked incredibly hard to keep the farm afloat during a difficult few years.
In 2022, Greenslate Community Farm will offer services including upskilling its educational offering, hosting workshops on healthy eating, conservation, and cooking nutritional meals. The team also want to promote mental wellbeing through mindfulness, yoga, and positive mental health workshops.