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Meet the Friend: Ouseburn Farm

Digital Union are proud to introduce the Ouseburn Farm as a Friend of DU! The Ouseburn Farm (based right next to us in the beautiful Ouseburn Valley) is a working farm, popular visitor attraction and vibrant green space in the heart of the city, where everyone’s welcome and entry is always free.

Find out more about the Farm and how they work with local businesses and the community...

What is Ouseburn Farm, and what do you offer to the local and wider community?

We’re a working, city farm right in the centre of the vibrant Ouseburn Valley. 30,000 visitors walk through our gates each year for free and learn about the origins of food, nature and the environment through engagement with farm life. But we’re more than just a farm – we’re also a unique haven of learning and growth for the city’s most vulnerable residents. 45 adults with learning disabilities come to the farm each week to gain work experience in our gardens and farmyard and through their work, they connect with each other, our visitors and the natural world. It’s a very special place where everyone is welcome and nurtured. Our mantra is that we are a place for growing – plants, animals but most importantly people.

The Ouseburn Farm is very unique in that it is essentially a ‘city farm’. Why do you think it is important to have vibrant green spaces offering family experiences, particularly in an urban area, in the North East?

We need to protect urban green spaces like the Ouseburn Wildlife Corridor where the farm is located because connection with nature is a basic human need. It’s vitally important to childhood development to engage with nature but also that enriching, leisure experiences like those at the Farm continue to attract funding so that all children and young people can access them. We are committed to remaining free and believe that free leisure provision for families helps to tackle child poverty and improve social mobility. This is especially important given the farm’s location next to some of the most economically and socially deprived neighbourhoods not just in Newcastle but in the whole of the UK.

It makes economic sense too to protect our green spaces – people are attracted to live, work and study in places that are abundant with them. We are therefore really pleased to see the launch recently of Urban Green Newcastle – the name for Newcastle Park and Allotment Trust – which will help to secure the future of the city’s parks for generations to come.

How can you see the farm evolving over the next few years?

There are lots of exciting milestones for us next year – our first fundraising dinner at The Biscuit Factory celebrating over 40 years of the farm, the opening of our newly remodelled visitor centre in spring and the launch of an in-depth social impact study which highlights the extraordinary results we achieve for vulnerable adults in particular. Together, these all serve a longer-term vision for the farm and our charitable and commercial activities. In the next few years, expect to see a wider range of products available to buy from the farm gardens, farmyard and kitchen, an improved café offer as well as greater focus on developing our sustainable ethos and values and extending our commitment to promoting wellbeing the city.

You have forged partnerships with local businesses including Drummond Central. What are the benefits of having partnerships with local businesses?

Responsible business is good business – bringing benefits for profile, reputation, employee wellbeing and engagement and stakeholder relationships. The Farm builds its business partnerships around these key principles but all are bespoke to the business involved. The Farm benefits from corporate support by having more resources and expertise to support our work and grow our impact.

Drummond Central is a great example of this in action. We forged our partnership when the farm was going through a tough period a few years ago. Drummond Central committed to funding half our deficit for three years to help us stabilise while also investing agency resources into our fundraising strategy – devising and leading a high profile crowdfunding campaign in 2017 that together with their donation, rescued us from closure. Since then they’ve supported us with a complete rebrand amongst other projects. This work has won them numerous marketing awards and also in October this year, a very well deserved North East Charity Award for outstanding charity support. They have been truly outstanding.

The partnership has also offered benefits to the business too, winning them awards and recognition and adding some great case studies to their portfolio to help win new business. Each summer, their School of DC interns get involved with fun farm projects and see the agency’s responsible business commitment in action. Staff have also accessed unique events at the farm like our private lamb feeding evenings.

Keep an eye on our social channels for updates on what we’re doing with Drummond Central and all of our business partners and supporters.

You place a huge focus on working with vulnerable young people and adults who struggle in education and employment. What inspired you to do this, and what are you doing to solve this problem?

We have seen how engagement with nature and the opportunity to nurture plants and animals can transform people’s lives. It’s vital for the mental and emotional wellbeing of everyone in our city to have access to nature. And wellbeing is the foundation for everything else in our lives – successful relationships at work and at home. In this respect, the farm is ideally placed to support the most vulnerable in society – helping to build their confidence and self-esteem through hands-on practical activities outdoors in nature so they can take further steps in their independence. Recently we have adapted our approach with adults with learning disabilities to working with a new group of people – socially excluded adults in supported housing. We are seeing similar successes with this group and hope to grow this work in the next few years.

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