Here at Rusty Monkey, we want to help support our community by working with like-minded people who share our ethos and want to 'give something back'. With this in mind, we decided to create a volunteering programme for the Rusty Monkey team.
On Monday 28th October, a few plucky members of our team pulled on their wellies and headed out to Stonebridge City Farm to volunteer for the day.
Stonebridge is an urban farm that offers volunteering opportunities to around 140 volunteers on site each week, many of whom have a mental health challenge or learning disability. The farm does not charge an entrance fee to visitors and so ensures accessibility to all. It is a charity-run organisation, and relies on donations to continue to provide a taste of the country to the people of Nottingham.
The farm has long been an oasis of calm in Nottingham City Centre, offering visitors the chance to get close to nature, learn about animals and agriculture, and get some fresh air. It’s proven a huge hit with people of all ages, and is an essential source of wellbeing for all who live here.
So how was it down on the farm? We caught up with the volunteers to find out what they got up to.
Emma, PR and social media
When we arrived, we were greeted by Rob, who told us about how the farm runs and what an asset it is to the community. After our health and safety briefing he showed us around the farm and introduced us to the wonderful staff and volunteers at the farm. Everyone was so welcoming and kind.
We were so eager to meet the animals, and before we knew it we were surrounded by a friendly group of goats and cows. The farm is home to a wide range of large animals - cows, pigs, goats, sheep, and ponies - as well as smaller critters like turkeys, chickens, geese and ducks.
After taking endless photos of the animals and giving them plenty of fuss, we were asked to paint the fences surrounding the farm - so with paint brushes in hand we got to work.
On our lunch break, we took a walk around the gardens, where we saw a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers. It’s hard to believe that just a few steps away from the bustle of the city, these beautiful gardens can be enjoyed by all.
One thing that was clear from the second we arrived at Stonebridge City Farm was the sense of community spirit. As we listened to people talk about the positive impact the farm has on people's lives, we all knew that this wouldn't be our first time volunteering. We had such a wonderful day and we are really looking forward to coming back. Thank you so much for having us!
Iulia, animation and illustration
It was such a lovely thing to do, truly. I have wanted to volunteer for so long and yet I never had the guts to do it alone. I was so excited when Emma approached us with the idea of volunteering at the farm, and I couldn’t wait for the day to come.
I was ready for any kind of work that they might give us, but I was pleasantly surprised when we were asked to paint their fence. ‘I have been holding a brush since I was 5, this should be fun!’ I thought. And it was; it was so relaxing to just spend time with the girls and paint away. Occasionally the cows and goats would come to say hi, and steal a few pets from us. One of the baby goats in particular was very interested in our freshly painted fence. He was a bit of a menace; but he was too cute for us to get mad at him. We managed to gently steer him away every time he got too close.
Above all, it was incredibly refreshing to be in nature, surrounded by animals. After so many months being stuck inside, a breath of fresh air was much needed. It’s amazing how the city felt so far away, even though we were right in the middle of it.
The people working there are so lovely and kind; you can tell that they love what they do. The farm is a welcoming place for all, often helping people who have reached a low point in life, or people with disabilities. Rob told us how they try their best to lift people up, to encourage and empower them. Those people often leave the farm after a while, to chase new opportunities. That is such a beautiful thing, and I truly admire them for doing it. I’m really looking forward to going back there someday!
Zoe, branding and graphic design
If I’m honest I was a little nervous about the volunteer day at Stonebridge farm. Firstly, because it had been a while since I had socialised and met new people, but mainly because I am the least DIY person I know! I was convinced I would be more of a hindrance than a help!
But I was excited to get involved with a community project, especially one that would bring me out of the home bubble I had cocooned myself into over lockdown.
Once we got there I knew instantly I had no reason to be nervous. Emma and Iulia were by my side, and Rob, the volunteer coordinator, cheerfully welcomed us onto the farm. On the farm, my favourite flowers - sunflowers - towered over an array of freshly grown vegetables, and there were volunteers dotted around helping with various tasks. They had even set up snack stalls with homemade cake for visitors, and nibbles for people to feed the animals that lived there. I wanted to live there! It felt like my dream of a sustainable paradise had become a reality, and all just a minute away from the city centre!
And to top it all off our task was painting fences! Something I could do - years of painting gallery spaces and murals would be useful once again. I happily swapped my computer mouse and keyboard for a paint brush and a tub of green paint. We got out the dust sheets and were ready to tackle any old weathered fence that happened to fall into our path.
The sun shone on us as we revived the fences, and the hours passed by quickly. We got to chat away as we worked, and seeing both Iulia and Emma in real life rather than on a computer screen felt so nice.
We also got many compliments on our painting from people passing by, and made friends with the curious cows and goats whose pen we were painting. The main challenge was trying to direct the mischievous goats and their clean fur away from the green paint! But it also presented us with a good excuse to distract them with lots of petting and photographs.
I know we went there to help the hard working community at Stonebridge, but I found it so therapeutic being outdoors that it felt like the volunteer day had helped me as much as we had helped them. It really was such a wonderful day.
If, like us, you're feeling like a caged hen, head down to Stonebridge City Farm for a few hours. Blow the cobwebs away, get back to nature, and feel free again. We reckon you'll love it. Share your experience.