I remember once hearing about a survey that was conducted in the US that showed that few kids knew where milk came from. Whether that story is true or an urban myth who knows, but I suspect there is a little truth in that. If you’ve never seen a cow being milked, or a real cow for that matter, how could you know?
In Melbourne Australia, I suspect it’s a little different, as kids there can bring their parents to see how to milk a cow (her name is Heather) every day at 10am and 4pm at Collingwood Children’s Farm right near the centre of the city. Located on a bend in the beautiful Yarra River are seven hectares of paddocks, gardens, orchards, shady trees and, of course, animals. Established in 1979 the farm is a not-for-profit community space where visitors can wander around, feed animals, help with farm chores if they like, walk into the paddocks with the sheep and goats, feed the chickens or just watch the wind sway the river gums and silver wattle trees along the river banks.
The farm puts a major focus on biodiversity and sustainable farm management, using organic methods of pest and weed control and using a lot of indigenous plants. The Farm produces a wide range of food for the animals and also sells to us humans at their weekly Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market attracts 70 other producers from across the state. They also have a large space dedicated as a community garden where several dozen small plots are filled with a wide variety of vegetables and herbs.
There are, of course, also the animals. There is shy Mickie the donkey and his best friend Joe the pony. Charlie, Brandy, Zac, Ted, Tyson and Harry are all horses. Then there are the pigs Typhoon, Greta, Maybelle and Myrtle. There are too many goats, sheep to introduce them all and same goes for the multiple breeds of ducks, chickens. If you are lucky you might see Maggie, Toki, Pebbles, Oompala or Mash the cats hunting for mice. The farm also has its own bee hives (honey sold regularly at the Farmer’s market) and two varieties of earthworms that are sold to the public for their home gardens or as pets if desired. Oh and I almost forgot you can get guinea pig cuddles every day from 11.45-12.15 because we all know that everyone needs a good guinea pig cuddle every once in a while.
After milking cows, guinea pig cuddles, wandering around and petting the animals, take a break by sitting on one of the numerous wooden tables of The Farm Café. Immersed in the middle of everything here you feel like you couldn’t be further away from the city if you tried. The space is beautiful, so beautiful in fact it is regularly used for receptions and even wedding ceremonies. The food is beautiful too and takes cues from the farm while being very modern, creamy goat’s curb, house beetroot relish, avocado, poached egg and herbs on toast with a side of bacon, french toast with strawberry and mint salad, maple syrup and vanilla labneh. Oh and of course, a hot chocolate.
We grabbed a table between the main café and the chickens. The resident peacock walked by, like he owned the place, followed by half a dozen toddlers and their parents trying to make sure the toddlers didn’t get too close. If it hadn’t been so darn hot outside today I would have really liked my hot chocolate. Made using Schulz Organic Milk (the Farm Café sources from several local organic producers) it was simple but very enjoyable.
You can easily turn your day at the farm into a full day. A morning at the farm (starting with a hot chocolate), lunch at farm café. When you have had enough of the chickens, just outside the front entrance to the farm is Abbotsford Convent, an equally fantastic place (I’ll be back soon to find a hot chocolate there and review it separately) with live music, galleries, outdoor cinema and a really good organic pay as you feel restaurant.
Verdict: Come here just for the café or take the time to also take a wander around the farm. I’m planning a trip back to order that goat cheese toast. The Farm Café and Collingwood Children’s Farm, 18 St Helliers St, Abbotsford, Melbourne, Australia