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Surrey Docks Farm Monthly Newsletter
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Surrey Docks Farm - October 2020

Behind the Gates


The Farm may be closed to visitors but there's still lots of activity going on behind the gates. Read on to find out what each project has been up to this October! We're also sending a massive thank you to all who have supported the Farm, enabling us to ride out an incredibly challenging financial period with such generous donations.

Thanks to all Members who joined our AGM, it was a new experience for us via Zoom! The AGM provided a good opportunity to reflect on all the achievements in 2019-20. Our annual report and financial statements are available via our website. Huge thanks to our staff, volunteers, participants, partners and our community for the successes and highlights listed in the report and for everyone's determination and positivity to continue through recent challenges.

At the end of September we welcomed our first ever Horticulture Apprentice, thanks to funding from the City Bridge Trust and Southwark Council's Neighbourhood Fund. Our new Apprentice will spend one day a week at Walworth Garden to gain a Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture and four days a week gaining practical experience and supporting our food growing projects here on the Farm. 

We were delighted to see our Young Farmers work recognised with a Special Commendation in the Urban Food Awards announced this Autumn, well done to our whole youth team of staff, volunteers and club members!

Thanks to our outgoing Youth Committee, who put in a tremendous first year with many highlights including parading in the Lord Mayor's Show, interviewing the 'Urban Birder' David Lindo, leading a consultation for progression projects and informing funding bids to ensure we're youth-led and... successfully crowdfunding for their planned improvements to the Wildlife Garden. 
 

Thank you

 
We have been overwhelmed by the incredible support from our community! Back in March when the first lockdown came into force we were in real danger of closure. With minimal free reserves - following the investments in our riverfront development and electric upgrade - we were facing cash flow issues and a loss of over £150,000 from income generation activities unable to go ahead. We launched our appeal for help on Easter weekend and within three weeks our community had generously donated over £21,000 enough to cover three months livestock costs. We were really motivated by the response and all the messages, we are so grateful to every one of you!

We are in a much more positive position with donations continuing through our campaign page, regular giving from our Friends of the Farm and successes with emergency grant funding. But we're back in a second lockdown and even without this enforced closure, we still don't have capacity to manage the new reporting and monitoring of social distancing that is required to reopen fully to visitors.

We also can't bring back our income generating activities, so your support continues to be vital to the Farm's future. If you'd like to help us you can do so via donations, purchasing from our online farm shop and gardening shop, or buying gifts from our wishlist.

    

Do you shop at Co-op? Did you know you can now support the Farm’s Youth Programme whilst buying your groceries via the Local Community Fund. You’ll need to be a Co-op member and chose the Farm as your local cause.
 

Livestock


We've had a busy year on the Farm - with lambs born in April, goat kids arriving throughout May and two litters of piglets born to our sows Marmalade and Winnie. The animals are all doing well, thanks to the hard work of our livestock staff and volunteers who have mucked out, cleaned, groomed, and exercised our feathered and furry residents!
 
      

We're now running our donkey adoption groom and walk sessions again and it's been great to take Alice, Hermione and pony Kiera out of the Farm for their walks. 

This month we've been busy with maintenance tasks. We fixed the paving in the cow yard in preparation for two new calves to arrive after Christmas. We've also been doing some serious pruning and tree coppicing across the site, which has meant a regular supply of leafy branches for the goats and pigs to browse on! Even the animals have been helping, with Marmalade making a small dent rooting up the meadow, unfortunately she likes her comfy straw bed more on these rainy days so there's still a way to go here!
 
      

We really miss our visitors here and have been pleased to see everyone looking down onto the duck pond and goat yard from the Thames path. We think the animals have missed all the attention, or maybe it's the regular barley treats throughout the day!
 
 

Training Projects

 
Cow Pat
It's great that the student projects have been able to start up again and have provided a sense of normality for us all in these challenging times. We are lucky that all our activities can take place outside and we are practising social distancing and using our outdoor classroom for tea breaks and writing the daily activity diaries. The students are really glad to be back with the animals especially the Cow Pat favourites Alice the donkey, Keira the Shetland pony and the rabbits and Guinea pigs. They are certainly getting a lot of extra attention, treats and cuddles from us! One of the highlights of our sessions has been mucking out the ram lambs. They are full of energy and very mischievous. We are enjoying trying clean their pen without them knocking over our wheelbarrow and nibbling our clothes!
 
      


Plot to Shop
It's wonderful to have the team back at the Farm after lockdown. Whilst they were away the online shop was established and the freshly produced fruit and vegetables sold to the local community. The Plot to Shop team have taken on the challenge of harvesting, preparing and packaging the produce for the shop. When we started back in August we were harvesting summer fruit and veg including plums, apples, strawberries, lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, courgettes, beetroot and potatoes. Now the shop is selling more autumnal produce such as celery, parsnips, beans, leeks, herbs and pumpkins. The team have really enjoyed learning about seasonal crop production and how to harvest and present them for sale. 
 
      


New Leaf
This month New Leaf students have been harvesting the last of their tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, courgettes and squashes to take home to their families and sell in the Farm Shop.  They have now cleared most of their beds to make way for autumn and winter crops, and everybody has been busy planting peas, broad beans, garlic and onions ready for the next growing season. 
Michael, Andrew and Tony have been busy sieving compost ready to top up the newly cleared beds, while Jordan and Tony have cut back lots of overgrown hedges and trees on the farm. The sticks are fed to the goats and the pigs who absolutely love them as an afternoon treat!
Louise has also collected lots of delicious chicken eggs for sale in the shop, while Jordan completed the mammoth task of digging up and repotting 30 strawberry plants from the river beds. The strawberries will be left to establish in their pots before going on sale in the gardening shop. 

      


Farm Produce
This group has been affected the most by the pandemic as students largely spend time indoors cooking! To manage the risks we've spread the students out so just one person attends the project per session and they can cook with their support worker and a distanced staff member. 
The students have made herby bread, lemon cake and apple tart to take home. They've also been busy processing the glut of green tomatoes to make this years green tomato chutney. Earlier in the season volunteers harvested the soft fruits and froze them. Now the students have used these to make gooseberry, loganberry and plum jams. You can sample the students' culinary skills and support our training projects by purchasing these chutneys and jams via our online farm shop here.

      

 

Wildlife

 
During the Farm's closure we've been posting on our social media sites on a daily basis to keep everyone up to date on what's going on here - and that includes wildlife sightings!

We've created a new webpage to record the wildlife we've been able to photograph so do have a look here.

This month's highlights have included a flock of long-tailed tits foraging from tree to tree; and a fantastic leopard slug that is a real friend to gardeners as predates other slugs and processes decaying plant matter speeding up decomposition! We've also been following the shield bugs from eggs to adults and one of our team captured the incredible photo giving an insect's eye view of a Southern Green Shieldbug nymph on our bean plants.

    

 

Heritage

 
A major new find on the foreshore this year has been this Victorian patterned glass, which was found amidst Blitz rubble and is very likely to have come from the smallpox receiving station formerly located on the Farm site. This particular pattern was patented in 1892, just a few years before a major expansion of patient facilities and staff accommodation at the receiving station, in which a lot of obscure glass like this would have been needed. Over 20 fragments of the glass have been found so far, with many of them matching up and now glued together. The three fragments making up the piece in this photo were found by three different people, including mudlarks Nicola and Carol.

        
 

Youth Projects

 
At the beginning of the new school term the Youth Clubs returned to the Farm after a break over lockdown.

During the break the children and their families enjoyed evening visits to the Farm, free fruit, herbs and vegetables, online youth sessions, games, quizzes and newsletters.

Since their return the young people have enjoyed re-connecting to the plants and animals they care for: they've ridden the donkeys, harvested crops, made fires in bush craft, worked towards an AQA cooking award and cared for the new baby animals. Specific attention is being paid to helping young people struggling with the effects of the pandemic and pressures at school, with new after school sessions in place to provide additional support.
 
      
 
Some Young Farmers and young volunteers spent September applying and interviewing for the new 2020-21 Youth Committee. The outgoing members carried out shortlisting and interviews and recruited a new team of 8 young people (aged 9 to 15) to shape the youth programmes in the coming year and beyond. The new Youth Committee will begin their work at the end of October, focusing on the areas of improvement the Young Farmers and youth volunteers have suggested. Their specific wider concerns include climate change, racism and discrimination, as well as improving the Farm for young people. 

One of our Youth Committee members successfully applied for a microgrant from London Youth and delivered a community gardening project at the Farm in September giving away 10,000 wildflower gardening kits. He also devised and delivered planting workshops at the Farm with a view to improving mental wellbeing and helping provide nectar sources for pollinators, and particularly those listed as red in the Southwark Nature Action Plan. 
 
      

The crowdfunder the young people ran with Spacehive secured it's target of £32,000 in May thanks to hundreds of local supporters, the Mayor of London and British Land. Works have started on the wildlife garden renovations this month. The young people are taking a lead on this project, designing new signage and planting schemes ready for installation by the end of the year. 
 

Green Mentor


As the seasons change there is always lots to do in the green spaces around the Farm. The Sunday morning gardening group has been busy in the River garden, saving calendula seeds for next year, watering the shrubs, removing the summer tomatoes and getting the planters ready for some winter colour. They have also been planting strawberries and sowing seeds for the winter season.

Our more experienced Monday gardening group has been potting up strawberries and herbs for our online shop, and pricking out winter greens on their journey to a Farm vegetable plot. They have also been doing lots of weeding and cutting back around many of the paths.

We are now offering mini workshops with attached accredited AQAs open to all Farm volunteers. This month we have been looking at weed identification and wildlife.  

We have had two Good Gym Community Missions on Sundays where they have got stuck into a range of tasks with tons of energy, bagging up manure for the Farm shop, sweeping the goat yard and weeding the community plot paths. 

Further a field we have set up a consultation for local community gardens and organisations to find out what would be most useful for them to help us in setting up a Rotherhithe Community Gardening Network which aims to bring together growing and gardening skills and knowledge, so that we can learn and support each other.

      

 
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