Youth-led Social Action Projects

Ferret Fundraiser

The Youth Committee led a fundraising campaign to build a new large ferret enclosure so we can care for ferrets on the Farm again! 

They planned four events across two days in April 2023 and worked hard making ferret bunting for their fundraiser stalls, making and painting clay sculptures to sell and planning which cakes and baked goods to make. The groups made an incredible £981 during the fundraiser and in combination with generous online donations we are thrilled to say we have reached the target of £1750 collated here. A huge thank you to all of our young people and their families for making this such a success.

Once the new ferret housing is built in November 2023, we’ll be able to take on two or three new ferrets to live here on the Farm. The ferrets will be cared for by the young people in our core youth programme on the weekends as well as our volunteers, work experience students and adults with learning disabilities on weekdays. The children in our programmes will enjoy learning about ferrets, taking them for walks around the Farm, feeding and mucking them out, taking them to animal competitions and shows and learning about their behaviour. In addition visitors can come to the Farm every day of the week for free, to meet and observe the ferrets here.

Youth-led event: ‘Nature: What’s the Point?’

One of our young people in our Greenagers youth club gained funding, planned, organised and delivered a fantastic nature event on Saturday 2nd July. His event enabled Londoners to get involved making insect hotels, tasting foraged teas, learning how to help bees, and developing their green fingers! Full details here.

'Nature What's the Point?' Blog, written by Finn

“As a Young Person living close to the centre of London, it makes perfect sense to me for people to often ask the question: ‘Nature. What’s the Point?’ Our daily lives are spent in a forest of concrete and glass, not a forest of trees, and we often find ourselves ‘too busy’ to pursue the great outdoors. However, I wanted to change this narrative. My name’s Finn, and I’m a Young Person who has a passion for the nature around us. I constantly get the privilege of being connected to our living environment at my youth club at Surrey Docks Farm, so wished to share why nature is something worth exploring, celebrating and cherishing, and why it matters to you.

I thought the best way to do this was by delivering a day long nature awareness day for the local community at Surrey Docks Farm. After securing funding from London Youth and the London Wildlife Trust, I held this in July, and it consisted of: foraging; seed sowing; wildlife identification; herbal teas; pollinator identification and much more. Across the event space were stalls that combined information with activities, promoting an engaging and hands on method of teaching. Some of my favourites included seed sowing, in which we made sustainable pots out of newspaper, filled them with compost made at the Farm (a process I taught the visitors about) and planted herbs and other crops that could easily be grown on a windowsill or small balcony, meaning that people with limited outdoor space, owing to living in a crowded city, could still form a connection with nature. One of the most popular stalls showed people the benefits of some of the plants that they perhaps often see, yet think nothing of them. For example, we harvested nettles to make tea – everyone loved the opportunity to taste something they might not have tried before, whilst learning about the amazing health benefits it may bring. Did you know, stinging nettles don’t just sting, they’ve been thought to reduce stress and treat sore muscles! Other activities included making your own insect hotel with readily available materials – like bamboo canes, sticks and string – and decorating packets of wildflower seeds which grow into flowers that are brilliant for bees.

Over the course of the day, I really enjoyed being able to engage with people who visited. It was challenging to alter each activity to make it suited for all demographics, but overall, young children, teenagers and adults all seemed to enjoy it just as much as one another. It was really rewarding to see a finished product, seeing it advertised across social media outlets, and collaborating with other young people at the Farm to ensure the day ran smoothly.

However, the bit that the visitors didn’t see was the amount of planning that went into it. This felt like the most valuable part to me, I have learnt so many skills and methods of approaching challenges when designing events akin to this, whether that’s securing funding from partners, the importance of keeping to self-imposed deadlines, and how to generate ideas (without putting too many eggs in way too many baskets!) A key aspect I had learnt is that sometimes, keeping information, branding, activities and delivery simple and clear can be the most effective method. It’s easy to get carried away with chucking as much information as possible onto a page, or trying to get the most complex, high-budget activity possible, but often, simply inviting people to drink some nettle tea, and planting seeds, helps you reach the exact end goal that you intended – at least in my case it did.

I feel very grateful for all of those who helped the event be a resounding success: everyone at the Farm, including Youth Workers and volunteers for helping guide the direction of the day and other Young People for helping out at the stalls; London Youth and the London Wildlife Trust for offering support and funding; the Jack Petchey Foundation, for acknowledging the event, and providing a platform to share the story. It all acts as testament for how much success is so dependent on collaboration with others.”

City Leaders

As part of their London Youth City Leaders project, members of the Youth Committee have launched a social action project that helps to bring people closer and develop a greater interest in the work done at Surrey Docks Farm. 

In an attempt to make people more interested in the Farm, the Youth Committee are creating online content, such as farm fact files, podcasts and short videos, to teach people about the animals and work carried out at the farm. This helps to make the Farm more interactive for its visitors and teaches people about some of the animals that we care for here.

Additionally, the Youth Committee are inviting young people who have been impacted particularly hard by the pandemic to the Farm to take part in sessions that aim to provide them with a taste of what happens at the Farm and to combat stress and loneliness. 

Not only is this project engaging people within the wider community with the Farm, but it is providing young people in the Youth Committee with invaluable experience in planning, working as a team, communication, problem solving and working with a budget – skills that they can use in the future. 

Text by Finn (Youth Committee 2021)

Youth Committee Blog, written by Orphée

My Farm Life

Hi! My name is Orphée. I am 13 years old, turning 14 in September. I am currently a secondary school student in year 8. I started attending Surrey Docks Farm in 2015 when I turned 8. I started off as a part of the Sunday ‘Green Fingers’ club, but then I moved to the Saturday ‘Young Farmers’ club about a year and a half later. Altogether, I have been coming to the farm for nearly 6 years. Surrey Docks Farm was established in 1975 and has since been a neighbouring part of the community. Throughout my time here, I have learnt many new things about animals and plants – this has helped me to become more educated in the nature sector and helped me to apply my knowledge to my everyday life, such as growing plants. These things have all benefited me in some way and I feel like the farm could also help others like it has me.

At the farm, there are many different things that you can do: grow your own fruit and veg in allotments, muck-out animal pens, explore in the wildlife garden, collect chicken, duck and geese eggs, bottle feed lambs, cook and much more. As well as there being clubs, visitors can come to the farm to see the animals and feed them, but due to the pandemic, it has stopped, but will hopefully run back up again! We have a café where people can have a quick drink with a snack or even a nice hot lunch! It’s by the foreshore so it’s in a calm environment where you can enjoy the sun. Since the lockdown, Surrey Docks Farm’s on-site shop has been closed, but it is still available online. You can book an order of veg, fruit, meat, eggs, or even a bag of fresh manure. At the farm, there are many clubs that run, whether they’re throughout the working/school week, on weekends or even during the holidays (except for Christmas)! The young people who are a part of these clubs also get the chance to go on trips, whether it’s to another farm like Stepney City Farm, to a botanical garden like Kew Gardens, or perhaps an overnight camping trip. These are all very fun things that we get to enjoy at the farm. On top of that, the farm also holds fairs: Spring, Summer and Autumn fair. There are many different food stalls and fun activities for children to play, and sheep shearing usually happens around that time. Since these usually happen on Saturdays, the Saturday morning Young Farmers group also have their own stall or work in the old café area. When people buy things at the fairs, the money is usually collected for farm donations which goes towards, e.g., improvements and projects for the farm. We do these things to make Surrey Docks farm a better place, which people want to visit. This is why I continue to attend the farm. My younger brother has even become a part of the young farmers.

When I first joined the farm, I had a huge fear of animals. I was afraid to join in activities which we did because of it. Overtime, I feel like the farm has really helped me to lose my fear of animals and become closer to them. My favourite animals on the farm are probably the sheep/lambs because they are quite calm. Through the farm, I have learnt many more facts about plants and animals and have been able to apply it to my everyday life. For example, my mum and I grow lots more plants in our house and have learnt how to propagate them, which is an easier way to produce more of the same plants without wasting any money. I enjoy coming to the farm because I get to spend some time with the animals, and I get to see all of the blossoming wildlife. I also like growing and harvesting crops because we get to sometimes take some home and eat the fruit and veg that we pick. During the lockdown, we were able to come in for a visit to the farm and take a bunch of fruit and veg home. My mum and I made 3 different jams (rhubarb + apple/strawberry + loganberry/raspberry + blackberry) using some of the fruit/veg we brought home.

The farm has launched the Greenagers programme for 14- to 18-year-olds. It’s a place where young people can do things that suit their likes more and experience a variety of things to do and still be able to be a part of the farm. It’s a great opportunity for young people to explore new things and still enjoy the comfort of hobbies which they liked before. I am excited to become a part of this in September. Although the farm is situated in an unusual place (in the middle of the city), it is a wonderful environment where people can come to find a sense of calmness, like our wildlife garden. I especially enjoy going to the wildlife garden when there is loud noise and it’s really quiet and you can hear the chirping of the birds. It’s rather soothing! The farm is also available to club attendees if they need any help with schoolwork or just need a quiet place to study. This leads onto the idea of the youth hub which is a plan that the farm has. It is going to be a quiet space for young farmers, greenagers and youth committee members only. Though it may not be available to the public, it will be a great advantage for young people. It can be used for cooking, chill-time, reading, working and playing board games – it’s a great project that I think future kids will enjoy.

Overall, Surrey Docks Farm is a wonderful place that all people can come to and experience farm life in the city! I think you’ll love it!

Let’s Get Pollinating!

Nine Young Farmers took part in the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Keeping it Wild’ project. They designed a campaign ‘Let’s Get Pollinating’ to promote the understanding and protection of pollinating insects with local and wider communities across London.

Using skills they learned at a Headliners media training day and a conservation workshop at the London Wildlife Trust’s Woodberry Wetlands they carried out their project online in Summer 2020.

Follow their campaign on social media by searching for the #LetsGetPollinating tag or read their posts on the John Muir website here.


Wildflowers & Wellbeing

One of our youth volunteers and passed Youth Committee member applied and gained a microgrant from London Youth in Summer 2020 to plan, budget, promote, deliver and evaluate a community gardening project.

He showed real initiative and thought in setting up this project on his own, with guidance when needed from our Youth Manager. Further details here.

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