Northern Farm has become a major recreational facility for thousands of city people needing a place to escape to over weekends. It attracts more than 4 000 visitors per month.
Over the past six years the Northern Farm Recreational User Group (NFRUG) has initiated a number of recreational projects on the Farm. These include mountainbiking (up to 1 000 riders per weekend), birding (330 bird species), equestrian activities and hiking.
It was therefore disturbing to hear a Joburg official stating on Radio 702 recently that these are short-term leases and a “decision has not yet been taken” about the future.
Some 200 youngsters from Diepsloot have been involved in the biking: learning to ride, developing life skills and working part-time as wardens, guards and bike washers. In all, about R40 000 per month is paid in salaries to local people, mainly from adjoining Diepsloot.
Northern Farm Equestrian Park, a world class equestrian facility, has been built on the Farm and is operated and managed by NFRUG. In December 2009 it hosted the highest level Eventing Competition ever to be held in South Africa. International competitions will be hosted here in 2010 and 2011.
The Farm is part of the SA Birding Route and it attract hundreds of avid birdwatchers. The mosaic of wetlands, grassland, farming areas and exotic woodland form an important mix of habitats that host 300+ bird species. It is particularly good for raptors, with one the of the few breeding pairs of African Fish-Eagle in the northern part of Johannesburg occurring. Community members have been trained and are employed as guides.
Schools are increasingly using the Farm for hiking/biking events. The Waldorf School, St Peters and various scouts and cubs are regular clients.
Northern Farm is one of Gauteng's major assets. It will be a disaster if lack of holistic planning or hidden agendas destroy it.