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Farm Newsletter - February 2017

Welcome to your monthly update from the Farm! Apologies for the huge delay with February news, we're a small team and have been down a few staff members recently. We're also in need of volunteers to help on Wednesdays and weekends in the Farm Shop, this role involves serving customers and answering visitor queries. If you're interested find out more here.

We enjoyed welcoming lots of visitors to the Farm during the February school holidays. The youth team were busy running activities such as family cooking, farm club and bushcraft club.

We were delighted to win the 'Community Engagement Award' at this years Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement for our biodigester project partnership with UCL's Engineering Team. Full details on UCL's website here.

Our application to Southwark Council's for a Cleaner Greener Safer grant was successful - we'll be starting work from April to install a replacement garden tool shed for all our projects to use, as well as creating a new undercover area for potting up. The grant will also fund the creation of new signage to explain more about the Farm's sustainable features, including rainwater harvesting, solar panels and of course the biodigester.

Thanks to the teams from Zopa and Barclays who came for corporate volunteer days. The Zopa team survived a very rainy day, helping muck out the animals, bag up animal feed and build a new storage unit. While Barclays team got to grips with our muck heap, bagging up lots of well-rotted manure for local gardeners to use.

Southwark Construction Skills apprentices were busy digging up the block paving path next to our community allotments. It's being replaced with a wider accessible path thanks to Ardmore's construction team - more on this in our next newsletter!

The Farm team were sad to say goodbye to our Youth Programme's Coordinator, Karis Hockey. Karis joined the team four years ago and has grown our youth clubs into a full time offer for local children. Good luck in your new job in Bristol Karis!


Edward Hitchcock from the Worshipful Company of Farmers came to the Farm's aid again! He organised for a digger to come and turn the muck heaps and dig a trench through the pig field so we can run the electrics.

Happy birthday to Alice the donkey who turned the grand age of 25 years old last month!

The latest litter of pigs went to slaughter with most of the meat coming back to be sold in our Farm Shop. Do come in and stock up on your sausages, they're selling fast! We also sold pork to Lusso catering company who gave their apprentices a lesson in butchering, before cooking amazing dishes for their clients.

Our Livestock Apprentice, Brandon, was invited to an interview in Scotland to become one of the British representatives for the Aberdeen Angus Society. He will hear back in the next few weeks, so we're keeping our fingers crossed! Through the Society, Brandon was invited to visit Oxford farms and was taken on a tour of Dawn Meats abattoir to observe the slaughter process.

February ended with the arrival of our first lambs, twin boys for one of our Oxford Down ewes. 

Training Projects

We deliver training projects for adult students with learning disabilities. Students develop skills in a range of areas including horticulture, retail, cooking, crafts, animal care and basic maintenance.

Cow Pat
Paul is doing an excellent job of cleaning out the duck house with volunteer Pat and new volunteer Stephanie. We were all pleased to see the new born lambs, especially Harry and Rachel.


Moishe commented "I enjoy working with Claire's team at best farm. I am happy at Surrey Docks Farm."

Plot to Shop
The students welcomed visitors from Camden Society's Mill Lane Gardening Project to have a tour of the Farm and find out more about the Plot to Shop project. We hope to go and visit their gardens this summer.

Plot to Shop have been working on a new project to increase their sales. They will be testing their DIY skills to build a new 'garden centre' outside the Farm Shop. Here the students will sell modules containing young plants they have been growing from seed, for example bedding plants, flowers and vegetables including tomatoes, lettuces etc. Make sure you visit in April to see their handy work and buy your plants! 

New Leaf
The New Leaf polytunnel has been a hive of activity over the last couple of months! James has created a row of hot beds on the opposite side of the biodigester. The beds are filled with woodchip and waste coffee granules and 'watered' with the biodigester effluent. We use this mixture to help create a sterile compost. The bark works instead of peat, allowing air into the compost and we just add sand to the mix, before bagging to sell in our Farm Shop.


The hot bed heats really do heat up, often reaching 50 degrees in the centre! This has meant the New Leaf students can grow tomato plants outside in the polytunnel much earlier this year.

Farm Produce
The students have been busy baking including loganberry crumble, fruit cake and onion focaccia. Harry and Monica made a spicy squash chutney and Paul continued the theme of marbling with his delicious chocolate and vanilla cake and handmade cards.


Moo Crew
Congratulations to Hugh, our Moo Crew Coordinator, who is now a Dad!
While Hugh's been off parenting, James has been working with the Moo Crew team. Lou has been looking after the donkeys, mucking out and taking them for a walk. The group have been getting the new pig house reading for Esther our sow to move over. Jordan enjoys working with Matt cleaning the goat house. Everyone enjoyed a visit and cuddle with the lambs!


Green Grow Cook and Go!

Drop-in Community Gardening (Saturdays 10am - 1pm)

During February gardeners have sowed winter varieties of Nero Di Toscana Kale, “Komatsuna” Japanese Green and “Reine des Glaces” Crisphead Lettuce which will be planted out into their raised bed later in the Spring.

The gardeners have also had a go at propagating houseplants (Jade and money plants) with leaf buds! We are hoping to stock more houseplants in the Farm shop this year so watch this space.

Three of our gardeners did a wonderful job of picking litter at the Farm one morning - we collected three sacks of rubbish in total. We want to encourage people to take their litter home with them and help keep the Farm a clean and safe place to visit.

In the middle of the month GoodGym Southwark visited in the swirling snow to help improve the Farm’s green spaces by: woodchipping the wildlife garden pathways, sweeping the yard, chopping wood for the pizza oven and giving the goats apple tree branches to chew on.  

To keep up to date with the green activities at Surrey Docks Farm please go here


Workshops at the Farm

On February 11th Forage Botanicals ran a workshop using foraged seasonal herbs from the Farm. Information about future workshops can be found here

The Farm will host a Spring Clean in conjunction with Keep Britain Tidy on March 4th from 10-1pm. Please do roll up your sleeves and get involved! Details can be found here

On April 22nd we will be hosting a Big Dig London event where we will undertake a variety of gardening and grounds keeping tasks to get the Farm’s gardens and allotments into the best shape possible ahead of the Summer. If you’d like to find out more go here

Education & Outreach

Harris Primary Peckham Park Academy, St James CE Primary School and Cherry Gardens school came for self led visits. Two classes, from Judith Kerr Primary Schoo,l visited for a flour making workshop to compliment their study of the Little Red Hen story.

Our classroom incubator project has been very popular this spring and we await the hatching of this years first chicks!

A group of young people from the Complete Works School have been spending time on the Farm, learning about bushcraft and animal care. This month they honed their fire making skills, learning to use knives, saws and working towards building a big fire to roast marshmallows on. 

Southwark Young Carers came to visit the Farm during half-term and helped with collecting the eggs and feeding the animals. They also learnt to make self watering planters from recycled 2-litre water bottles and planted bulbs in them to take home and grow on their window sills.

Piecing Together Our Past

Our Heritage Lottery Funded project aiming to piece together the full history of the former smallpox and fever Receiving Station on the Farm’s site:
We’ve been making a mosaic with the Young Farmers and Get Farming groups; the mosaic illustrates some of the dramatic events and rescues from the site in the Blitz.  Amazingly we got the whole mosaic done in a weekend, and did the grouting in an afternoon. It will hopefully be displayed sometime in March. 

Speaking of the Blitz, we’ve had success in getting in contact with relatives of another of the firemen who saved staff from the site – they have photos of him and the documents from when he was awarded a George Medal.  We’re still looking for relatives of five of the other men who were also recommended for awards. 
We have a new display cabinet – this has been installed inside the entrance of the Produce Room/Farm Office block.  This will be used to display smaller artefacts, documents and photos, and will be slowly filled over the next few months. 
There have been more crockery finds on the foreshore, especially London County Council pieces from the 1930s, and at the last reconstructing session we unexpectedly put together a section of what appears to be a large platter. 
We continue to work on the research at the London Metropolitan Archives, and as preparation for going through the handwritten report books, seven of us attended a rather entertaining and helpful workshop on how to decipher old handwriting.
We’d welcome any further volunteers who’d like to get involved, especially with the research, whether you have experience or not.  
Get in touch to find out more:     
Or visit our webpage:

Youth Clubs

The Farm is a very popular place for young people. We run FREE projects for families and young children, right up to 13 years. From 14 our youth club members graduate to become volunteers.     

Get Farming Club 
February has been a very busy month for the Get Farming Club members. As well as all the usual expert ferret handling, guinea pig cuddles and turkey visits, the groups have been diligently drawing designs and making a tiled mosaic depicting the effect the first night of the Blitz had on the site of the Farm.
The group has also been busy developing their sweeping skills in anticipation of starting to muck out the goats. The group members have begun to notice that the hens are laying more eggs now Spring is around the corner and have started scientifically recording the egg count on Capital Growth's clever 'Harvest-o-meter' generator. Learning how to use this system of quantifying what is grown will stand the club members in good stead for recording their vegetable harvests in the Summer! 
Young Farmers Club  
Sadly this month the Young Farmers said goodbye to Karis our Youth Coordinator who is moving to a new job in Bristol after 4 years at the Farm. As a farewell celebration the Young Farmers held a special Bake-off. Lots of tasty cakes were made, decorated and eaten!
During half-term the Young Farmers, along with their families and friends, carried out a sponsored 5 mile donkey walk and raised over £300! Along our walk we stopped at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre to say hello to our sponsors, British Land, and even met a reporter from the Southwark News. 

The Young Farmers have also been working on a mosaic to commemorate local heroes during the Blitz. Germander visited to share some tales of what happened on the sight of the farm during the Blitz and then worked with the young people to create a mosaic, using found items from the foreshore.
The Forge
Kevin Boys our resident blacksmith holds classes every Sunday from 10am -12pm
Tel: 07984416269

Piccalilli Caff

Rotherhithe’s award winning café here at the Farm! 
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm for all day breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea
Copyright © 2017 Surrey Docks Farm, All rights reserved.

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