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Heeley City farm: Green since '81

Going green has become a fashion trend in the last few years, something for celebrities to hitch their star to.

Suddenly knobbly shaped vegetables covered in dirt are in, as is veganism and biodegradable everything. Like a long-established band that suddenly have a top ten hit, environmental friendliness has suddenly got itself a lot more followers. Yet these new disciples tend to eclipse the dedication of long-time fans. One such diehard green fan and promoter is Heeley City Farm. For over thirty years the charity has been dedicated to protecting the environment and promoting conservation in Sheffield. Its conception in 1981 was a triumph of conservation over industrial expansion. The farm was built on the site of a row of houses that were demolished to make way for a new ring road. Local people protested and the road was never built. On the wasteland left they built Heeley City Farm.

'Farm' is a term that only covers a small proportion of the work they do. Of course they are a working farm and their main attractions are the animals. Visiting the farm is an enjoyable way to take a break from reality and be transported back to your childhood - chasing chickens, cooing at piglets and having bags of food stolen by greedy goats.

The animals are only the start of Heeley Farm's multifaceted enterprise. In fact it is their ends which are the start; their manure goes into the compost that is used to grow the farm's organic plants and vegetables. These are sold in the farm's garden centre, the only peat free garden centre in the area, and used in the wonderful vegetarian meals and sumptuous cakes which are produced in the Farm Kitchen. The scraps and waste are then recycled again as compost, and so the cycle continues. Not much is wasted, especially waste.

The farm also works in conjunction with other local produce brands and suppliers, such as The Sheffield Honey Company, supporting local business and ensuring the best quality, organic ingredients.

Still, this is not all they do in support of conservation. They also house the South Yorkshire Energy Centre. The centre is an eco refurbished house that demonstrates energy saving techniques. Solar panels heat the water and sheep wool insulates the walls. It has interactive displays such as 'The Human Power Station', where visitors work up a sweat pedalling to light up a bulb. The dedicated staff at the Energy Centre offer free advice on conserving energy within the household and saving on domestic bills.

They are so much part of the community that they are involved in the annual Heeley Summer Festival. Last year's festival attracted 3,000 people to the farm and a stage hosted local bands like King Capisce and Jungle Lion. There were over thirty stalls, a beer tent, a BBQ and many other attractions.

This year it's the farms 30th birthday and the celebrations are going to be part of the Heeley Summer Festival, which will be held on 18th July. It is one of many events held at Heeley, varying from art exhibitions to 'Fuel Busting' days.

This industrious little slice of Eden is worth visiting, not only for the animals, events or to collect your £3.50 bag of manure, but also to discover a company that got on the green bandwagon long before everyone else. And they'll still be on it long after everyone else gets off.

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