Just 10 minutes from Canary Wharf (London's second financial district and home of the UK's three tallest buildings) on the Isle of Dogs, is a wonderful city farm - Mudchute Farm. On 32 acres of fertile land (nutrient-rich as it is just next to the Thames) lives 200 animals, mostly rare breeds. Mudchute Farm is also home to 70 community allotments, a farm kitchen and restaurant, horse stables, and smokehouse. Wood from the farm is used in the smokehouse where butter, geese, and cheese are often smoked.
The two most interesting animals I saw were of the avian kind. This is a beautiful, male Golden Pheasant. Originally from central China this guy was pretty happy in a large pen with multiple light brown, less-striking, female Golden Pheasants.
As their name suggests, these are Transylvanian Naked Necks. They hail from Hungary and were introduced to the British as Churkeys because, like Turkeys, their exposed skin turns red when exposed to sunlight. Despite their appearance these birds are calm and love warm weather. They are quite popular in warmer Eastern European countries as they can withstand higher temperatures. What are they doing in London?!
Since it is a city farm these goats have to fight for their dinner with the local pigeons who have gotten tired of begging for sandwich scraps from the business-types in their blue shirts and black suits.
This male (can you tell?) Tamworth was finishing the last of some lettuce scraps. The Tamworth is recognized as the purest British pig breed as it is a direct descendant of the European Wild Boar.
The farm's kitchen uses as much product as possible that is produced on the farm. For meat, Mudchute practices nose to tail cooking, using the entire carcass. It's hard to ignore the importance of animal welfare when you see the animal and its habitat before you are about to eat it.
Mudchute Farm and Kitchen hosted an important event yesterday afternoon - London Food Link's bi-annual networking meeting. London Food Link is a group I have been working with since last October and is a group that aims to make London's food system more sustainable. The networking event is a chance for members to share and coordinate their projects.
One of their newest projects is Capital Growth. Funded by the London Development Agency, Capital Growth aims to create 2,012 new community food growing spaces in London by 2012. Capital Growth provides grant money and food growing advice to people in the community who start new growing spaces.
Another project is Good Food Training, which I have been directly involved with. This project aims to encourage sustainable procurement and training for the public sector (schools, hospitals, prisons). The project hosts events all over London that show public sector chefs how to use less popular cuts of meat and sustainable fish sources. The project also trains service providers about sustainability, customer service, and nutrition. One of the latest projects includes teaching prisoners how to garden and cook - skills that they can use when reintroduced to society.
Another project that I have been involved with is the Good Food for Camden strategy. This strategy aims to help lower income and disadvantaged people living in Camden (a London borough). Specifically, the Camden strategy includes consultations and toolkits so the people of Camden can learn sustainable ways to buy, eat, and dispose of food that improves their health, well-being and the environment.
There are so many other great projects that are involved in London Food Link that I haven't mentioned. These include everything city beekeeping to reclaiming food.
If you are in London I would recommend a visit to Mudchute and to have a meal at the farm kitchen. Last night I had a bit of lemon-gingerade, crudite, and hearty bread with nettle spread. Nearly all of the ingredients were grown on the farm or on one of the community allotments. The nettles were foraged from the farm.
This sheep's wool will be used as insulation in some of the farm buildings...