City Farm has sacked its manager and seven staff have walked after being handed new contracts with heavily reduced hours.
Cliff Morris, CEO of Men of the Trees—the organisation the farm answers to—says drastic action was needed because the East Perth site is haemorrhaging cash.
But Michael Forte, axed after managing the farm for nearly two years, says the farm was, “performing at an extremely high level and we had a good business plan in place”.
“The cafe, venue hire and produce sales were all going well,” the former New Yorker told the Voice.
“The management takeover came as a bit of a shock, and I only found out last week that I was getting let go.”
Mr Morris says the maths is simple: “Expenditure was exceeding income and we were subsiding the farm from other limbs of the MOTT.
“Once the farm is in better financial shape we would have upped the hours of staff, but we had to cut them back temporarily.
“Recently the farm made a move to become independent and self-funding, but it hasn’t really worked and it didn’t pass the financial tests we had set.”
For 19 years the urban farm has operated under the auspices of MOTT, whose board sanctioned any and all changes at the property.
In April the farm, under Mr Forte and co-manager Julie Broad, established a committee to oversee its transition to independence, with its own governing board and a new constitution.
Mr Forte says there were some “personality issues” between farm management and MOTT—refusing to elaborate—but was adamant the independent model was profitable.
Married with two kids, Mr Forte now plans to start his own organisation with ex-farm staffers, transforming gardens and vegie patches throughout Perth. He says he still derives an income from a business in NYC.
After 17 years transforming the old scrap metal yard, City Farm founders Rosanne and Thom Scott hung up their gardening gloves in 2011 to move to New Norcia. The farm has a 40-year peppercorn lease with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority—due for review next year. Green World Revolution has been appointed to manage the farm.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK