Nick Albers, Manager at Nijmegen’s Kinderboerderij de Goffert (Children’s Farm)
When people talk about the famous de Goffert Park in Nijmegen, what immediately springs to mind are usually images of the famous music groups that have performed there, such as the Rolling Stones, U2 and Guns ‘n’ Roses, or the Frank Marcus designed bee keeping pavilion. However, there is another entirely different attraction that draws around 70,000 visitors to the park each year, known as the Kinderboerderij de Goffert (Children’s Farm). This is an educational care farm that teaches people about animal care, the environment and sustainable living.
We spoke to Nick Albers, manager of the farm and a local resident of Nijmegen. Nick began volunteering in Kinderboerderij de Goffert in 2013, before finishing school and becoming the farm manager over 4 years ago. He gave us an inside look at what makes this farm so popular.
Tucked away in the 80 hectares of de Goffert Park (Nijmegen’s largest city park), the farm is a haven for animal lovers, nature seekers and anyone looking for a break from the busy city life! The farm is home to all kinds of different animals, including horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs and deer, which are all free to roam in its green meadows. You can also find chickens and rabbits running about, and on the large pond you might even spot some ducks and geese. There is also a playground, a woodwork workshop, an educational trail, a canteen and an information point/visitor centre available for the public to enjoy at no cost.
As Nick tells us, the farm is much more than an educational centre; it is also a social enterprise that employs people with intellectual disabilities. It does this in partnership with Driestroom, an organisation which helps people participate in society through learning, employment and community activities. It is this aspect that got Nick involved with the farm; “I didn’t grow up on a farm. I took an internship here when was at university studying how to work with people with intellectual disabilities. I continued volunteering and working here part-time throughout my education and eventually became the Manager.”
It’s not just Nick that loves his job. He explains how their partnership with Driestroom has created an excellent opportunity for a large number of people with intellectual disabilities; “It’s a wonderful collaboration with Driestroom, and it’s a really beautiful combination, for the children, for educational purposes, and for the people who work here. They love working here and that’s very important aspect of the park.”
As Nick explains, there are many benefits of having a job for people with disabilities, including greater social inclusion, more independence, and the opportunity to learn new skills. In addition to all of this, the farm provides a relaxing and safe working environment, where they can get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Nick suggests that anyone looking to positively contribute to their city’s environment should visit places like the Goffert farm, to really see sustainability in action. By making small changes to our daily habits, such as how we use water and deal with food waste, we can have a big impact. Nick explains, “I think the first step for them is to come here, and see how we do it, and then they will be motivated to grow their own gardens.”
The perfect escape and just a stone’s throw away from the city, Nick explained how a visit to the park “is almost like going back in time 20 or 30 years.” The children’s farm offers an experience not usually found in the heart of a city. Children have the chance to interact with farm animals, nature, and the environment through education and recreational activities.
Nick is proud to call Nijmegen his hometown. It’s no surprise that he appreciates nature; however it’s not just the access to the nature at the de Goffert farm that Nick can appreciate. He’s also in awe of the beauty of the city and its surroundings, which makes his commute to work all the more enjoyable; “Cycling over the bridges to come to here is what makes this city so great! It is one of the many reasons I love Nijmegen. It’s a beautiful city and it’s pretty compact. It has beautiful scenery and even better hospitality. What’s not to like about Nijmegen?”
Even if animals aren’t your thing, the Goffertpark itself is a spot everyone can enjoy in Nijmegen. This huge public park is spread across eighty hectares and is just one of thousands of acres of nature conservation areas accessible from the city.