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Award winning volunteers at Garden Organic’s national conference

Award winning volunteers at Garden Organic’s national conference

Garden Organic has hosted a special awards ceremony at its National Master Volunteer Master conference to celebrate the achievements of its volunteer networks.

More than 215 Master Gardeners, Master Composters, Local Food Project Co-ordinators, Seed Stewards and other likeminded volunteers attended Garden Organic’s Ryton Gardens site on September 28 for a day of activities.

After independent judges reviewed a record number of nominations, the awards were presented by Chris Baines, a campaigner for urban nature conservation.

  • The Achievement Award, kindly sponsored by Harrod Horticultural, is given to a volunteer who has gone beyond expectation in their activities and was won by South London Master Gardener Pamela Woodroffe. Pamela has been an inspiration to people living in Tulse Hill, Brixton, almost single-handedly engaging the community in growing schemes, including community composting and provision of gardening advice and information to schools and community groups.
  • The Master Award, kindly sponsored by VegTrug, which recognises exceptional achievement by a volunteer was won by Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, of Stechford, Birmingham. Working with Garden Organic’s Sowing New Seeds project and actively involved in various community and school growing projects, Mrs McGhie-Belgrave is an inspirational figure in her community, encouraging and promoting the benefits of gardening and growing produce to people of all ages.
  • The Group Achievement Award, which recognises impacts delivered by a group in their community, was won by the Zimbabwe Association, who have nurtured the Sowing New Seeds demonstration plot at Spitalfields City Farm in London. The plot has produced armfuls of vibrant nutritious food. “The group have taught us about their traditional crops, cooked for us, sung for us and hugged us!” says Olivia Burt of Spitalfields City Farm.
  • The Innovation and Social Media Award was won by North London Master Gardener Nat Mady. Nat’s idea to set up an edible roof garden on the outside terrace of her employer’s office, along with a gardening club for employees to get involved in to maintain the space, are among the innovative practices she has implemented in her Master Gardener role.


Congratulations to all our entrants

Stella (middle), Zimbabwe Association
Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, Sowing New Seeds
Gloria, Master Gardeners
Nat, Master Gardener
Paul, Master Composter
Colin & Guy, Master Gardeners


More award news

Our 2012 Conference Award Winners

Our 2011 Conference Award Winners

Local Food Heroes in Warwickshire

Local Food Heroes in Norfolk


Master Gardener Programme shortlisted for national award

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Hovenden House and a Master Gardener

Hovenden House and a Master Gardener

Hovenden House is a home (with nursing care), providing a range of services for adults with physical disabilities in South Holland, Lincolnshire. Master Gardener David has been supporting the community growing space there since he volunteered with the programme in September 2011, building up a very impressive 56.5 volunteering hours in the process.


 ‘I have managed to get a grant from South Holland District Council for Hovenden House Leonard Cheshire Disability Home. The grant has been used to build a paved area for raised beds which can be accessed by the residents from their wheelchairs. The boxes for the raised beds were made by young adults as part of the National Citizenship Scheme – also arranged through SHDC by me. I have made bespoke gardening equipment for the disabled residents to use from their wheelchairs as many of them have physical as well as mental disabilities’ David Wood

The residents are enjoying growing food and David is a very popular green-shirted individual when he visits. Due to the engagement of the residents, South Holland District Council awarded the home with money to create a more disabled friendly growing environment.

‘I’m pleased to see that the £3,000 allocated to the project has created a path and area where they can be installed.  I hope that all the plants thrive and that they will continue to be eaten by the residents and used by the chef in the House’s kitchen’  Karen Johnson, South Holland District Council

The original raised beds

The new and improved growing space, thanks to South Holland District Council


For more information about Hovenden House, visit

For more information about South Holland District Council and their commitment to healthy living and eating visit



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Master Gardenering

Master Gardenering

A couple of quotes from Master Gardeners in the south of the fair county of Lincolnshire.

These children are incredibly well organised and are well on the way to getting raised beds installed as well as a composting system. They are already roping in parents and two of the three class teachers have worked the composting materials into their curriculum plans

Alison McGrath, South Kesteven

Delivery of Planning to Grow Vegetables – Beginners course at New College Stamford, including preparation time, and pre-publicity . 5 weeks of 2 hour sessions, with lots of new material as well as re-use of last year’s

Maggie Magennis, South Kesteven

Seasonal growing tips
Catch up on Lincolnshire Master Gardener latest news
Become a Master Gardener
Get free food growing support!
Read more blogs here for top tips from Master Gardeners

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Household Feedback

It’s always nice to hear from the people we support and helps us understand how it is we benefit them. This feedback is from a household living in North Kesteven:

I think everything has been really useful, I know we haven’t contacted you an awful lot but when we have you’ve always come back with suggestions really quickly and given us several different ideas to choose from. Unfortunately the allotment has been on the back burner for us a bit this year due to the weather and a few things within the family, but i still think that we’ve been able to pick up an awful lot of core things from you e.g. composting, manure, crop rotation etc that we’ll be able to use year in year out.

Your help was also indispensable when it came to trouble shooting (e.g. blight!) As, not having grown much before, we didn’t know what we were looking at or where to start. We were also really grateful for the way you popped down to the plot when we first signed up as it gave us a lot of confidence that the info you gave was suitable for our soil etc and not just something quoted from a book that we’d then have to try and interpret. As for the scheme in general I’m really glad we got to hear about it and joined.’

Find out more!


Master Gardener blogs

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‘Grow your own food’ a boost for health and sense of community, says Coventry University research

‘Grow your own food’ a boost for health and sense of community, says Coventry University research

Encouraging people to grow more of their own food is not only beneficial to the environment but leads to improved health and wellbeing and creates stronger local communities, according to new Coventry University research released today.

In a study of the Master Gardeners programme run by the UK’s leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic, researchers at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS) and the Centre for Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) found that those involved enjoyed an increased sense of community and improved life satisfaction, as well as having a significant impact on their food growing and consumption habits.

Through this new mentoring programme, Garden Organic recruited, trained and supported more than 400 volunteers in five areas – North London, South London, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire – to become Master Gardeners.

These volunteers, aged 16-81, then worked with their local community to encourage more people to grow food. As part of their commitment volunteers then recruit 10 households to mentor in horticulture for a year.

The Coventry University research found evidence of real behaviour change as the majority of both volunteers and households grew more food and a greater range of food after joining the programme. 63% of volunteers and 79% of households have increased the amount of food they grow, and as a result a quarter of households and a third of volunteers were able to reduce the amount they spent on food each week.

A third of mentored households now report spending 3-5 hours a week growing their own food, with a further 50% giving it a go for 1-2 hours a week. It is not just the households that are learning more about growing food; over 95% of both volunteers and households say they have increased their knowledge about food growing through involvement with Master Gardeners.

As a programme built around a network of local volunteers, the Coventry University researchers were keen to explore any possible impact on community. 94% of volunteers said that they felt part of a community, with two thirds saying their sense of community had increased since being involved in the Master Gardeners programme. And the average life satisfaction scores for both Master Gardener volunteers and households has increased; from 7.4 out of 10 to 8.4 amongst volunteers, 7.2 to 7.8 amongst households.

Families are now growing their own

Dr Moya Kneafsey, a researcher in CAFS and part of the University’s Grand Challenge Initiative in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security, said: “For many years we’ve been told anecdotally that gardening is good for you as well as good for the environment. What these results show is how significant the impact can be in terms of health perceptions, life satisfaction and involvement in the local community. It also highlights just how important volunteering organisations and networks are in creating stronger, more engaged communities regardless of whether this is in an inner-city borough or a rural county.”

Philip Turvil, project manager for the Master Gardeners programme at Garden Organic, said: “We have always felt that our Master Gardeners programme has wide-reaching benefits beyond growing food. It’s also about lifestyle, community and improving the environment. We don’t want to just teach our Master Gardener volunteers the best way of growing a cabbage, we want to teach them how to pass this information on to others in their community, to share their passion and experience so that everyone is learning from each other and feeling the benefits. The outcomes of this research show us that this approach is working. By working with volunteers in their communities we’re proving that the initial challenges of growing your own food can be overcome. So if that first crop ends up slug eaten, rather than feel demoralised people look for advice and support instead of giving up.”

The Garden Organic Master Gardeners programme is supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Scheme, Sheepdrove Trust and local authorities.


For more information please contact Hannah Murray on 01727 737997 or email

Notes to Editors

Garden Organic Master Gardeners programme

Since its inception in April 2010 the Master Gardeners programme has overseen 44,608 food growing conversations, supported 560 community events and mentored 1,834 households (4,053 individuals including 1,387 under 16s). More than 15,000 volunteer hours have been given to communities in North London, South London, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire. Garden Organic has trained 449 volunteers and seen an 82% volunteer retention rate. The programme is supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Scheme, Sheepdrove Trust and local authorities. The Master Gardeners programme was devised around the model of another successful scheme also led by Garden Organic, Master Composters.

Garden Organic

Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity, has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years. Dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools, it uses innovation and inspiration to get more people growing in the most sustainable way. Garden Organic’s charitable work delivers the organic growing message through renowned projects such as the Food for Life Partnership, the Master Composter and Master Gardener schemes and the work of The Heritage Seed Library.

Local Food Scheme

Local Food is a £57.5 million programme that distributes money from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to a variety of food-related projects to help make locally grown food accessible and affordable. It was developed by a consortium of 15 national environmental organisations, and is managed on their behalf by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT).

Coventry University

The research was undertaken by Dr Moya Kneafsey from Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS), the research centre which is responsible for the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Grand Challenge Initiative strand of activity which examines how to create resilient food systems on a worldwide basis. In order to tackle this challenge head on CAFS recognises that solutions lie not only in the development of sustainable production technologies but are also concerned with the stability of food supplied and of communities themselves, the means by which people obtain food and aspects of governance, ethics and human behaviour.

The research was supported by Elizabeth Cheese at Coventry University’s Centre for Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE). Research at SURGE focuses on bringing the social and economic aspects of regeneration together, helping society to achieve a more equal, just and sustainable society for the future.

The findings presented here were based on 215 questionnaires, 29 face-to-face interviews and 8 focus groups.


Master Gardeners help local communities grow and share their own food

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Have your say this September

Have your say this September

Garden Organic has sent out exciting questionnaires this week to the Lincolnshire Master Gardeners and the lovely people they mentor to grow their own food.

We’re working with Coventry University to monitor and evaluate the health, social and environmental impacts of the programme.

It’s very exciting with intriguing questions – and already intriguing findings from our autumn 2011 and spring 12 research. We’re announcing the findings in few weeks…

Look out for your questionnaire in the post if:

  • you’re a householder registered by your Master Gardener between May 2011 and October 2011
  • a Master Gardener trained in autumn 2011.

We’re planning interviews and discussion groups during September and October 2012.

Alona and Susan planting apple trees in Mayow Park

Find out more -
Research overview and the pilot findings with Coventry University.

Get involved -
Register for your 12 months free growing advice or become a Master Gardener

Read latest news and case studies

Who’s who?

Master Gardeners Volunteers recruited, trained, and supported by Garden Organicto mentor registered ‘householders’ – individuals, couples and families wanting to start growing food or grow more at home and on communal land.
Garden OrganicWe’re the UK’s leading organic growing charity, dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools.
Coventry UniversityResearchers in the health, environmental and social impact of local food systems at the Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) and the Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS).


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Volunteers are good for the environment

Volunteers are good for the environment

Garden Organic says the positive environmental impact of a quarter of a million hours a year of volunteering on projects that promote sustainable growing is being felt in communities across the UK.

Garden Organic’s volunteers are directly helping to improve the future and the quality of the nation’s gardens and green spaces by giving over 25,000 hours of their own time to projects that provide people with growing advice, mentoring and support.

Garden Organic, which has a volunteer network spanning 15 regional areas, relies on volunteers to help it deliver projects on a range of sustainability issues covering everything from home composting and organic gardening techniques to home fruit and veg production.

Because of its volunteers the charity estimates it has been able to reach out to over 45,000 people in the past year, helping it achieve its aims to inspire people to take positive action in their homes and communities to reduce household food waste, grow their own organic food and change their gardening behaviour towards more sustainable techniques. Volunteering England estimates that the economic value of the UK’s volunteers is worth in excess of £40 billion to our economy each year.

Garden Organic’s Jane Griffiths said, “Volunteers play such a valuable role for charities but it’s not just monetary. Volunteers give us a voice in communities, are able to share enthusiasm and knowledge without obligation, and help encourage people to change the way they do things, in the case of our volunteers’, helping change people’s habits for the good of the environment.”

“Put simply, without our volunteers we just couldn’t carry out the work we do or reach the breadth of people we work with. We just want to say thank you.”

Amongst its 1,500 strong volunteer network, Garden Organic counts two of its mentoring schemes, Master Composters and Master Gardeners, as its greatest successes. Volunteers from these projects alone committed over 15,000 hours of volunteering last year, positively impacting the environment by supporting people to reduce food waste sent to landfill, reduce peat use through home composting, eat seasonally through mentoring people to successfully grow food and encourage organic growing techniques for the long term benefit of the gardens and green spaces within towns, cities and villages. The reach of these networks can’t be underestimated with Master Gardeners collecting data from every one of their active volunteers, which showed their work to promote sustainable activities from May 2010 to November 2011 had reached 27,395 people.

As well its UK wide volunteers, Garden Organic has a further 300 volunteers which support its organic visitor site, Ryton Gardens, its vegetable conservation project, the Heritage Seed Library as Seed Guardians, and its Sowing New Seeds project as Seed Stewards.

To find out more about Garden Organic’s Master Composter and Master Gardener volunteers visit or

If you are interested in the volunteering opportunities available at Garden Organic then please call 024 76303517 or email

Click here to read more Garden Organic news stories

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Mablethorpe Community Garden

Mablethorpe Community Garden

Mablethorpe Community Garden is the largest and most remote community garden in the Heath and Well-being programme. Roughly the size of a football pitch and with no access to running water, Master Gardeners Sue and Shirley demonstrate how powerful Master Gardeners can be to the success of a community garden.

Against the odds, with a somewhat difficult community to engage with (a residents own comment!), the two have worked wonders with little infrastructure. They have successfully encouraged numerous families into growing on the site, including two children from the travelling community. Community Payback have helped to dig the turf and have been wonderfully creative in bed designs – something that only a visit can enlighten!

Through hard work, networking and visible success they have been awarded a sum of money to help improve the site with a water butt, bench and various tools. They have been an inspiration and have between them clocked up over 100 volunteering hours in 12 months.

A panoramic view of Mablethorpe Community Garden - 2012

They have both constantly done over and above what I have asked or expected of my lovely Master Gardeners. Without these two wonderful personalities I doubt this site would have survived its first season.

Now is the time to start planting so expect to see a lot of activity down there. Feel free to pop down to the site on Enterprise Industrial Estate, Golf Road, any-time, however Master Gardeners Sue and Shirley are there most Thursday mornings between 10am and 12pm. If you live in or around Mablethorpe and would like 12 months free support and advice in growing food in your own garden, yard or balcony then contact us!

If you would like to know more about Mablethorpe Community Garden or would like to get involved contact Sue, Shirley, James or Rick here – contact us alternatively contact East Lindsey District Council

Mablethorpe Community Gardeners

Mablethorpe Community Garden - 2011

Master Gardener Sue with a few residentgardeners at Mablethorpe Community Garden - 2012

A delighted Mablethorpe resident in May 2011 at the start!

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Graham Nichols: Case Study

Graham Nichols: Case Study

Graham is helping 9 registered households – plus a community garden and a community group as a Master Gardener in North Kesteven.

This translates as supporting 28 people including 12 under the age of 16 to learn to grow and eat more food.

Graham is very proactive in his approach, writing articles in local newsletters and parish magazines as well as emailing everyone in his workplace to raise awareness of the free advice he offers as a Master Gardener. The newsletters he writes reach up to 5000 people – a budding local celebrity gardener!

Graham kindly gave a talk and presentation to the new intake of Master Gardeners in March giving excellent advice to them about how to recruit households and manage their time. Thank you Graham.

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Case Study: Jo Stainthorp

Case Study: Jo Stainthorp

Jo Stainthorp is currently helping 7 registered households as a Master Gardener in East Lindsey (Horncastle area).

This translates as supporting 28 people including 12 under the age of 16 to learn to grow and eat more food.

Jo has tapped into her social circle and also her children’s’ activity groups to help source her households.

Jo kindly came to talk at the September training to help give the new Master Gardeners a taste of what to expect.

Find out more about Jo here

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