Collingwood Children’s Farm

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Nestled in amongst the river red gum and paperbark trees of a typical Australian setting is a picturesque farm on the banks of a broad, flowing river.

But this farm in Melbourne, Australia, is no ordinary farm. A mere four kilometres from the centre of the city, it provides an unexpected haven for animals and children alike.

Collingwood Children's Farm was set up over 25 years ago by members of the city community who were concerned that children living in the district had nowhere to experience the great outdoors. Most of the local children don't have backyards and rarely get the chance to spend time among animals and plants.

During the school holidays and on weekends, kids of all ages flock to the farm to get their animal fix.

Guinea pigs are cute to cuddle, and the children are allowed to take them out of their cages for a pet with the help of mum or dad. And no, eggs don't come from cartons. The many varieties of chickens and ducks at the farm provide the kids with a chance to go egg collecting.

The emphasis is on organic, sustainable farming techniques and Landcare. These girls are learning good, clean, agricultural skills that will come in handy for life.

The farm cats have a tough job keeping the resident rodent population under control. Oh, it's a hard life being a tourist attraction, but pussy cat Oompala takes it all in her stride.

It's springtime at the farm and all the baby animals are hungry. Spring lambs bleat for their milk while the children learn the art of bottle-feeding and nurturing. Hold on tight. There are some ravenous lambs in the flock!

Collingwood Children's Farm runs on volunteer power, and children who live in the district have the opportunity to become 'friends of the farm'. The girls set about tending the herb and vegetable garden. Here they are planting potatoes to feed Petal, the farm's fat pig, and her three little piglets.

All of this animal chasing and the chores make for hungry bellies and the kids are keen to get their hands on some damper. The mixture of flour, water and salt is placed around a stick and, with the help of mum or dad, popped on the hot coals. A squeeze of golden syrup makes it a tasty treat.

There's even a nice café for the grown-ups. Nothing but the finest local organic produce is used for these treats. And all rubbish is religiously recycled at the farm.

Getting to the farm is easy and only a token entry fee is charged. That's a small price to pay for the chance for city kids to learn that milk doesn't come from cartons.

In this day and age, when kids are often stuck at home in front of the computer, Collingwood Children's Farm provides a unique experience for kids to get those lungs full of fresh air and cuddle something cute too. Kids with special needs have a great time at the farm as well.

And at the end of a busy day, it's time for all good children to go home to bed and all good animals to catch up on some sleep in preparation for another day at the farm. Aaaah, country life in the city - it's still a busy life, but it's a lot cleaner and greener.

More information can be found at the farm's site www.farm.org.au

Or try a search on 'Children's Farm' in Google for a farm closer to you!