Not for Profit

Published: March 4, 2020 | Updated: March 4, 2020

Generous donations help save the day for community farm threatened with closure

Susan Illsley of Fancy’s Family Farm, right, with Southern Co-op’s Liam Keogh and Kim Daley.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A community farm which was close to shutting its doors can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a number of donations.

When Portland’s Fancy’s Family Farm first opened nine years ago, Susan and Jon Illsley wanted it to be available to everyone and decided not to charge an entrance fee.

The farm is a community interest company which is run day to day by Susan and Jon but it’s owned by the community.

As it relies solely on donations, the wet winter has hit them hard.

Now a donation of £3,500 has been made from four local branches of The Co-operative Food and their outstanding food bill was paid by Weymouth Golf Club.

Susan said: “From the start we wanted the farm to be a place everyone can bring their children to experience the outdoors and the wildlife.

“When people visit, they have the option to make a donation and that can be anything from 30p to £20.

“But the weather has been so bad this year that it has really impacted the number of visitors and the number of donations plus the extra cost of animal bedding as we have had to change it every single day.

“It has been the hardest winter we have ever had.

“We were really thinking about having to close so the donation from Southern Co-op has dug us out of a big hole.

“We can see a light at the end of the tunnel now.

“The sun is out and Easter is just a few weeks away.”

The £3,500 donation was made by The Co-operative Food stores in Weymouth’s Chickerell Road, Portland’s Weston Road, and Bournemouth’s Madeira Road and East Howe Lane.

Around £1,800 was donated by Weymouth Golf Club and there have also been a number of raffles and auctions held by local businesses at Christmas.

Kim Daley, Manager at the Southern Co-op store in Weymouth, said: “We heard about the possible closure of the farm so we spoke to our nearby colleagues to see what we could do.

“The farm has an educational facility where they talk about the animals and let the children stroke and feed the animals plus they have work experience days for a local group which supports people with learning difficulties.

“We’re part of an independent, regional co-operative, Southern Co-op, and have a community programme to support great causes like this.

“We’re so happy to have been able to help them and hope we can get together for a community day at some point in the future.”

Fancy’s Family Farm is home to a flock of rare breed Portland Sheep, wallabies, goats, ducks, chickens, geese, pigs, donkeys, heavy horses, rare breed horses, goats, a barn owl, cows and many more animals.

Southern Co-op is a large, regional independent co-operative operating over 250 food and funeral branches across the south of England.

Owned by its 140,000+ members, it has an annual turnover of over £450m and more than 4,000 colleagues.