Stepney City Farm is a colourful little gem nestled in the heart of East London. Its multicoloured bunting flutters in the breeze outside the newly painted ochre coloured cafe, which serves up local produce grown on the farm. There are goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits, workshops, education programmes and allotments to name but a handful of the activities that take place here. Speaking to the farm’s CEO, Clare Hawkins about the sheer range of activities going on at Stepney, it's a feat to be holding so many strings together.
Founded in 1978 on an old bomb site, you can still see some of the ruins of a church when walking around the farm today. It was then that local residents decided to take over and create a farm. “It was part of the whole 1970s movement for city farms. There wasn’t any lease or legal ownership of the site until 2010, so it was essentially a squat until that time. A new charity took over and renamed it Stepney City Farm - it used to be called Stepping Stones. It’s gone from strength to strength since then.”
A large part of that growth was in part down to Crossrail needing to use part of the land for development work in 2012. While at first it might have seemed like a blow, it quickly turned into a positive for the community. “There’s a scheme called Section 106 which means that if lands get taken over or developed, local property owners or organisations can benefit from money to improve the local area.” While they might be sick of staring at cranes and construction equipment, they’ve benefited from the funding and manual assistance. “Crossrail have been really helpful in donating their time and labour and their own materials to get lots of the work done for us. We’ve had a really good relationship with them and we’re approaching the end of the time they’ll be on the site. From July 2018 we’ll be getting some of the land back in three stages. They need to keep part of it but we’ll get back quite a significant part of it that we’ll be using to do more farming, more growing and possibly getting some cows.”