We feel incredibly lucky to be a city farm, giving local people, particularly those from isolated or more deprived communities, an opportunity to experience and learn about farm animals. Not only are the animals an essential part of educational visits, teaching children about food provenance and good animal welfare, they also play an integral role in biodiversity conservation, improving mental and physical health, as well as helping us set an example of sustainable farming methods to work with nature and develop relationships with local people and organisations.
Although we check our livestock at least twice a day, we really appreciate anyone who lives in the housing overlooking Seaton Valley to keep an eye on our animals and let us know if you spot anything unusual. This could be livestock escaping, damage to fencing, if you see an injured animal or if anyone is trespassing across the site (usually staff will be wearing a high vis jacket when checking livestock). With more people watching over the farm, in the unlikely case where something does happen, the Poole Farm team can respond quickly.
In the unlikely scenario of spotting anything of concern, please call the Poole Farm team immediately on 07500 075719.
We’re delighted to be working with former owner of Poole Farm, Peter, who has continued to be here to help with advice and moving livestock! Peter now owns a farm a few miles away and brings some of his cattle to graze the Poole Farm fields each summer.
Why are cattle needed to graze meadows? Conservation grazing is an excellent way of maintaining and restoring habitats in a more natural way (rather than cutting grass with machinery). Cattle graze differently to other animals – they don’t graze as close to the ground as sheep and they’re less fussy about the plants they eat! This, in addition to trampling patches where they walk, creates a more varied vegetation height and mosaic of micro-habitats, benefitting invertebrates, birds, mammals and more!
We’re using this experience of having cattle and exchanging knowledge with other local farmers to inform how we’ll manage our meadows in future. We hope to continue with this traditional management technique and in the future have our own conservation grazing herd to help achieve aims which are part of the Green Minds Project.
After a successful trial of raising 3 British Lop pigs in 2019, in 2020 we trialled our 2nd year of producing pork from 5 Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs. Did you know that only 3% of pigs spend their whole life outdoors? We wanted to set an example and raise awareness of ethical farming and giving our pigs the best life possible, with a large area to roam in 24/7, not to mention receiving a lot of attention from us!
This non-intensive way of farming means the pig field recovers quickly and patches of soil dug up by the pigs can be used for potting plants and horticulture projects. We’ve also tried to be as sustainable as possible, working with Devon and Cornwall Food Action and local breweries, who donated vegetables and barley that would have otherwise gone to waste. Not only is this better for the environment, it reduces costs on pellets and is a healthier diet for our pigs.
Producing our own pork also demonstrates the importance of buying local produce and educates people on the provenance of food. Local residents can buy pork and we’re working with Tamar Grow Local to sell ethical, high welfare pork to the wider Plymouth community. This reduces the impact on the environment as well as supporting the local economy.
We'd like to say a massive thank you to our new friend of Poole Farm, Kat, who needed somewhere for her alpacas (Mario, Juan, Pablo and Diego) to graze and thought they would enjoy their life here! We think the alpacas are a wonderful addition and will help achieve many of our aims as Derriford Community Park develops:
Alpacas are excellent therapy animals and spending time with them reduces stress. As we become an important site for improving health and wellbeing, we're working with Livewell Southwest to develop an Eco-therapy programme that involves spending time with our animals and being surrounded by nature.
They are helping us with conservation grazing. Did you know that animals like cows, sheep and alpacas graze in different ways? As part of our grazing management regime, we want to see how alpaca grazing affects our meadows.
Caring for alpacas requires different skills to other livestock, so our work experience students and volunteers can learn about alpaca husbandry and how to keep them in top condition.
A bonus of having these curious alpacas is that they may keep our chickens even safer by checking out the foxes who like to wander nearby!
We hope that they will become an integral part of the farm over time, with visiting groups perhaps even being able to walk them on the tracks and footpaths around Derriford Community Park one day.
We love having honey bees at Poole Farm! Not only are they important for pollinating plants, the community orchard and wider local environment, they also provide a source of income for us and are a unique element of educational and eco-therapy visits.
Several of our hives are made from locally adapted bees rehomed from the Forder Valley Link Road worksite and are cared for by Poole Farm staff and trained volunteer beekeepers. Did you know our bees produced 330kg of surplus honey in 2019 and produced even more in 2020?! Contact us if you would like to buy this local honey or our beeswax products. For any beekeepers out there, we can also sell nucleus colonies so let us know if you would like your own honey bees.
The honey bees are also fantastic for research - studying genetics of local bee populations can help determine how healthy hives are and can inform decisions on how to improve genetic diversity. We are working with Pollenize as part of the Green Minds Project and through this, we hope to play a role in the recovery of native black bees and host our own population of this special species at Poole Farm.
When we ask school groups and families what animals they expect to see here, you can guarantee ‘chickens’ will be their first answer! Our hens are some of the original Poole Farm animals and they get on well with cockerel, Donald, who is very quiet but can occasionally be heard crowing!
Even though we’re not currently open to the public, our free range eggs are always very popular, particularly with the Poole Farm team and volunteers! Not only are we setting an example of good animal welfare, our chickens are very important in teaching people the provenance of food. Sadly many children, particularly from socially deprived urban areas, do not know that the eggs they eat come from chickens. This is one of the reasons why our city farm is so important - giving people an opportunity to experience these animals first-hand and gain an understanding of how they’re cared for and their role in farming.
In 2019, their chicken coop was given an upgrade and making their new home was a fantastic volunteer project, giving our volunteers from ages 7 – 70 a chance to learn carpentry skills and help design a coop that we hope our feathered friends will enjoy for years to come.
Greedy, Floppy, Mrs and Bobbie, have been a part of the Poole Farm family for a few years now. These rescue goats moved to Poole Farm to help keep the bramble and gorse under control in our meadows, reducing the amount of scrub encroachment.
Not only are they a firm favourite when it comes to family events and educational visits, they absolutely love the attention and put everyone at ease, which makes them a great addition for ecotherapy groups to enjoy. The goats are also great for our work experience students – there’s lots of things we need to keep an eye on, like the condition of their coats, hooves and making sure they’re up to date with their vaccinations!
Over the last few winters you may have spotted sheep in our fields – this is part of our grazing regime (as sheep graze differently to cattle) but it also helps us to continue working with local grazier, Dave, who has been fantastic in sharing his advice and helping with our livestock.
In 2019, Dave also brought some orphaned lambs to Poole Farm. When they arrived they had just been weaned, so they were very used to human company. This made them a great animal addition for school visits and working with Plymouth City Council’s summer mix youth group and families attending Food is Fun sessions – one girl describing meeting them as ‘living in a fluffy dream’ with group leaders saying ‘most of the group has never seen farm animals – this is really special for them and they’re engaging with activities [more than usual] because they’re so interested in the animals’.