Watching people grow as they grow their own gardens
How it all began
Having been a therapist for around 25 years I wanted to find a way of delivering the methods I had developed to a wider group of people, and start working within different communities. The issue was – how to find the best “route in”?
I had always grown my own food and found nature an inspiring and stress relieving aspect of my life. I wondered if I could introduce the therapeutic dynamics of my clinic work and at the same time:
- help conserve nature, and
- help people create food producing gardens
The creation of a new garden
Around 6 years ago I started volunteering in a “Therapeutic Community - Therapeutic Unit” inside Blundeston Prison. With support from psychotherapists and a group of residents I began to create a new garden using permaculture principles.
We had no budget, so we used recycled, re-used or donated materials. This introduced sustainability and creativity into the equation - we had to find a way to create what we needed from what we had!
‘Growing and changing’ – the benefits of the therapeutic journey
Over an 18-month period (by the end of which I nearly defaulted on my mortgage payments), I observed the change in a disseminated group of guys (all ages and backgrounds) with different mental health issues and at different stages of their therapeutic journeys.
They began to grow & change in so many ways and saw that:
- their complexions changed, spots cleared up, white pallid faces became pink and healthy looking
- their health began to change as they worked outside regularly, getting exercise, fresh air (more Vitamin D)
- they learnt to work together as a cohesive group
Prison officers and the clinical team saw:
- behavioural improvements
- better self-esteem.
- less mood swings
- more co-operation
Greener Growth growing!
As the food began to be harvested (including fresh veg, salads, herbs & fruit) more changes were obvious. The project was a success.
Having initially set Greener Growth up as a Limited Company – as this was all I knew about - I begun to look into a more appropriate framework for the Social Enterprise I was so passionate to take forward. This work was needed everywhere!
Our growing team wanted to access more prisons, schools and communities where they were experiencing challenges such as:
- poor access to green spaces, wild places
- poor levels of nutrition and general wellbeing
- social isolation .
I had my first small grant and some fabulous advice from the Lottery Funded organisation UnLtd and introduced to the concept of Community Interest Companies. I was then advised by several other organisations that it might be the perfect fit for myself and a growing band of people who were getting similarly inspired by the concept.
And so, we have grown, and what a completely fabulous experience it has been – and continues to be!
We have worked with 6 different prisons and more are contacting us all the time. We are also working with 20 different schools and special educational facilities throughout East Anglia, and we have 3 ongoing “Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden” Projects.
Growing success and the plan for the future
There is nothing like watching people, whatever their circumstances grow their gardens and conserve their green spaces, whilst growing themselves and their own resources.
Greener Growth CIC:
- creates long term partnerships
- plant hundreds of Heritage Fruit Trees each year
- teach budgeting courses and different forms of horticultural therapy working with permaculture principles
- teach food and nutrition
- teach food growing, conservation and biodiversity enhancement
The CIC has been a great success and I was recently awarded 2017 Business Leader of the Year at the Bury Free Press Business Awards.
The CIC formula fits us perfectly. At present, we have decided to continue our journey to become more sustainable independently of any grant funds, and we will reassess the potential next year