Surrey Docks Farm Response to Covid-19

Surrey Docks Farm is carefully monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and is following government advice to limit the spread. The Farm will remain closed to visitors until September, while we focus on the return of our more vulnerable participants and until our team are all back from furlough and we have enough staff to safely enable visitors to use the space.

Our priorities are ensuring the health and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers, maintaining animal care standards and supporting our more vulnerable participants to return. We also have serious financial concerns to address, our costs continue but income is drastically effected so we are working on new ways to sustain the Farm this year.

While the majority of staff were furloughed the remaining tiny team remaining have been working flat out to keep the animals cared for and the growing spaces productive.

Though we’re now legally allowed to open to visitors, to do so will require a complete re-thinking of the site including controlled access via booked free slots, in order to regulate numbers and keep everyone safe. We sadly just don’t have the capacity to manage this extra work until we can safely and financially afford to bring more staff back in September.

We will let you know via our website and social media channels as soon as we have more information about re-opening. Thank you all for your continued support and understanding, we are so grateful for your kind comments and generous donations.

What is the Farm doing?

Here’s an update on what’s been happening recently and our steps towards re-opening the Farm:

1. We welcomed a few staff back from furlough in July, giving the equivalent of one extra full time post. This gives capacity for our tiny team that worked flat out since March to each have a much-needed short break over the next few weeks!

2. We have increased volunteer numbers on site per day, welcoming back volunteers who have been off since lockdown and taking on a few new volunteers from our waiting list. This will help us catch up on muck heap maintenance, reclaim overgrown paths and ensure the site is accessible again. We’ve also increased access slots for our plot holders to come in and tend their raised beds.

3. We continue to deliver our online Farm Shop selling eggs and freshly harvested veg, plus our Gardening Shop and have seen over 400 households access this. Thank you for all your support!

4. We carried out a consultation with our Young Farmers to find out what their preference for remote delivery is and are putting this into action. Their preferred activity was to come for a Farm visit and see the animals, so we’ve booked in early evening visits for our forty Young Farmer’s and their families to attend when others have left the site. Staff are manning this four nights a week and it will help us plan for visitor bookings in September.

5. Our Youth Manager also continues to donate food she’s growing on the youth plots to local families we work with. We’ve signed up to Sustain’s ‘Community Harvest’ project and are using their ‘harvest-o-meter’ to track how much food we donate. We estimate between April and July 37 fresh food packages worth £653.80 have been donated to 27 local families. 

6. We’re bringing our adult students with learning disabilities back to our adapted training projects in August. We are busy finalising risk assessments, reorganising spaces, updating signage and phoning round everyone to enable their safe return.

7. We’re liaising with all our project partners to focus on the return of groups such as Southwark’s Youth Offending Service to run their carpentry workshops at the Farm.

8. We still have a deficit in our annual budget and continue to apply for emergency funding and are working on new income generation plans. We’ve applied for funding to improve our hand washing facilities around the site and to upgrade the toilets near the shop, to make them easier to deep clean and keep everyone safe.

9. We’ve applied for funding for more gates on the site so we can create new zones to keep different groups apart. Initially we’re looking for heras fencing so we can reopen the Thames path and river gardens for free public access in August.

10. We’re working on agreements to launch a new pop-up cafe to open onto the Thames Path on Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s from early August, until the Farm site opens further and the cafe can re-open properly. More details here.

11. We liaise regularly with other city farms and follow government guidance on what’s allowed. We are exploring different options in terms of visitors returning, but we will need the full staff capacity back to manage this and that won’t be until September.


How can you help?

Here are a few ways you can support the Farm through this challenging time:

  • Help us raise much needed funds to cover our ongoing animal care costs of £7,000 per month via this donation campaign
  • Order a gift from our wishlist such as new brushes, heat lamps for our new lambs/goat kids, seed for the wild birds etc.
  • Shop online and buy organic eggs and fresh vegetables from us, pay online and collect from the Farm gates six days a week.
  • Interested in growing your own food from home? Visit our gardening shop. We have seed kits, plants, compost and more!
  • Keep in touch via our social media sites or send some snail mail – messages of support are always welcome! We might be a little slow responding as we’re prioritising the animals but we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 


How can I get in touch?

We are still not able to monitor the Farm phone at present, as everyone at the Farm is working outside. Email is the best form of contact and you can find out who is still reachable via our Contact Us page. But please bare with us as we’re getting lots of enquiries at present and are doing our best to keep on top of things!




Volunteer Guidance
We still need to keep the Farm running – to care for the animals and ensure the plants are watered and tended so that we have a thriving site when we can welcome everyone back!
New Volunteers
We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of enquiries from local people who now have more time on their hands and are keen to volunteer. Unfortunately we’re not able to take on any new volunteers at present. We have to limit the number of people on site to ensure social distancing and keep everyone safe. 
Conditions for Volunteering
We are still welcoming a small number of our regular volunteers for agreed shifts, but in order to protect our community and ensure we have a healthy team to do this work; we ask volunteers to keep up to date with current government informatiohere and to adhere to these four steps:

1. Please stay away if you or anyone in your household exhibits any of the Covid-19 symptoms (cough and high temperature)
2. Please stay away if you are in a more vulnerable group
3. Please stay away if you are a volunteer that would have to travel on public transport to get here
4. Those who are able to come will be asked to wash their hands thoroughly on arrival and to adhere to any H&S guidelines from staff

Limiting travel on public transport
In line with government advice we need to limit the use of public transport. We’re asking volunteers not to come in via public transport – for many of you this will mean you can’t come to the Farm. We’re so sorry for any disappointment but the Farm will still be here and will need your help when all this has passed! We are posting images on social media daily and will keep in touch with you as best we can.

Getting into the Farm
We have locked the gates to limit the number of people coming in and we’ve set up a temporary mobile phone to act as a gate buzzer. Please call 07309730531 to be let in through the Rotherhithe Street entrance. This phone can then be carried by whoever is on duty. Please don’t call it for any other reason as we only have a small team here and we need to get on with the animal care work.

Keeping in touch
We are prioritising the animal care and aren’t manning the main Farm phone. If you need to get in touch please email and we will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.

Work Experience Guidance
Pre-booked Placements
We’ve cancelled all work experience placements up until the end of July and will review government advice nearer the time for placements in August and beyond.
If you’ve booked a placement in April, May, June or July you should have received an email from Gemma cancelling your placement, we’ll be happy to rearrange in the not too distant future when it’s safe to bring you back.
New Placements
We’re not offering any new placements at present. Please check back in September when we will be reviewing our work experience offer in line with government advice at the time.

Farm Closed until end of July
We’re looking at the possibility of offering pre-booked free visits for families, in order to limit numbers on site. We’re drawing up risk assessments, one-way systems and reviewing how we can handle the additional admin side of bookings. We’ll keep you posted as things develop and hope to welcome visitors in this way in September.
Projects Closed 
In line with guidance and in order to keep students, support workers and staff safe we had to close our training projects for adult students with learning disabilities. Our students contribute a great deal to the daily running of the Farm, so staff have been working hard to keep things going without them – from caring for the animals, to watering and tending the plots, to harvesting fruit and freezing for jam making later in the year! We’re also phoning as often as we can and sending a weekly newsletter by email or post.
Returning to the Farm
We’re excited to welcome students back in August, to do so we’ve been busy creating new risk assessments and adapting spaces. We are splitting the groups in to two smaller half day sessions, to reduce numbers of people per group and to avoid eating lunch here. We’ll remain outside as much as possible, including having tea breaks on picnic benches or in our outdoor (open-sided) classroom space. We’re reorganising indoor spaces to minimise contact areas and maximise room to move around and keep distanced. Plus more!
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