A row has broken out over allegations that a Tower Hamlets city farm is being secretive about plans to change the way it is run in the future.
Volunteers at Spitalfields City Farm – which is currently closed in the lockdown – say the farm is not being transparent about plans to change the way it is run. The farm has denied that it has plans to end volunteering.
A petition has been started by the volunteers to stop the Board of Trustees from cutting existing volunteering programs for young people and families as well as the role of Volunteer Coordinator, which is said to have been made redundant.
Those behind the petition claim the Board of Trustees have not been transparent with the community, refusing to give staff any information about the Farm’s financial situation since April. They also claim that plans to restructure the farm have not been made clear.
This is not the first time the Farm has faced possible cutbacks. In 1987, Spitalfields City Farm almost closed due to lack of funding. Through successive bids to charitable trusts and public funding bodies, as well as strong community support, the farm has been able to stay afloat.
The proposed cuts come as a surprise to many as the volunteers have been a great help to the farm by minimising their financial outgoings. The position of Volunteer Coordinator has been essential in raising funds for the farm for almost a decade.
Volunteer Tanya Reynolds said: “Recently some very strange changes have taken place at the farm, in circumstances that are not in any way transparent. Mysterious redundancies and cuts to volunteering facilities, lack of clear strategy communicated to the staff and volunteer groups. An ‘invisible’ management and trustees, none of whom have visited the farm since March!”
The Farm declined to comment on the petition, but said on their Facebook page: “Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that false rumors are being spread about the Farm stopping volunteering.”
“We wanted to reassure our community, our volunteers and our supporters that this is simply untrue. Staff and volunteers alike continue to work hard to keep the Farm a place that everyone can enjoy, and we are fortunate to be able to carry on having volunteers on site.”
The Farm has made no comments on the role of Volunteer Coordinator.
History of the farm
Spitalfields City Farm started in 1978, with a team of workers and volunteers that worked together to develop the site in response to local people’s wishes to convert the initial wasteland into allotments. By 1980, the farm gained a charitable status and has since developed into a project providing a wide range of activities and opportunities to the local community and visiting groups. The farm has been considered a “green oasis” for Tower Hamlets residents, providing an inclusive space and community service for many.