“They’re one of the drawcards for the public – if we have less animals, what does the Collingwood Children’s Farm look like?” she said. “I think we’ll be able to reopen once the restrictions lift. It’s more in what capacity – are we going to be the same place we were before?”
A new campaign called Moving Feast is offering some much-needed revenue, bringing the children’s farm together with several other social enterprises to feed vulnerable people.
Tens of thousands of seeds, including radishes, carrots and Asian greens, have been planted, which will be harvested for use in meals cooked at inner-city community kitchens.
More than 20,000 meals have been delivered through the program, which started six weeks ago and is being funded through donations and crowdfunding.
Organisations involved include CERES, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and STREAT, a cafe and hospitality business that employs marginalised youth.
“All of these places would have had to close their doors because their business model relied on people coming to them,” said Rebecca Scott, CEO and co-founder of STREAT.
The impact on zoos has been felt widely in Victoria, with Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary sharing in a $14 million financial lifeline from the state government.
The small amount of government funding that goes to the Collingwood Children’s Farm is contingent on offering early education programs.
“That’s up in the air, depending on when we can kick-start that program,” said Ms Hickey.
As well as Moving Feast, the farm is relying on donations from the public to get through the pandemic.
It is also selling produce grown on site. However, the revenue generated is “very minuscule compared to what we need”.
With the number of animals reduced by about one-third, Ms Hickey said there was an opportunity to regenerate paddocks and expand the market garden.
“We intend to bring them back when we can afford to. We want to reopen bigger and stronger, but we’re trying to work out what that looks like. We’re going to need community support.”
Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.