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Somerset Master Gardeners

Achievements, Stories & Learning from March - September 2013

Somerset Master Gardeners are volunteers with food growing experience who share a passion to encourage others to have a go. They support local households to start growing food or grow more and offer regular advice and encouragement to individuals, families and groups for a 12 month growing season. They also promote food growing to their community through events, talks, articles, schools and more. They are truly building an Incredible Edible Somerset. This report documents their key achievements, share some of the highlights as well as lessons learned in their first six months as Master Gardeners. I have been continously inspired by their dedication, passion and desire to help others learn to grow and I hope this report can capture even a small percentage of the difference they are making in Somerset. Nicole Vosper Somerset Volunteer Coordinator September 2013 Pictured with Master Gardener Mum Michele

Somerset Master Gardeners are volunteers with Somerset Community Food, a local charity that has been re-connecting people since 2001.The Charity leads growing and cooking courses and has recently run a three year access to land project called Somerset Land & Food, which recognised that skills training was a key need of people in Somerset. Somerset Community Food partnered with Garden Organic to deliver the Somerset Master Gardener programme, which is funded by the Big Lottery. Incredible Edible Somerset is a grassroots network of home and community growers, also launched by Somerset Community Food in 2012, as a way to ensure the network remains visible and connected beyond funded projects. The Somerset Master Gardeners were recruited over the Winter 2012 and participated in the Induction Training Weekend on Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd March 2013, at Heads Up in South Horrington, Wells. There are 18 active Somerset Master Gardeners, with many more who applied but were unable to make the induction dates. All remain active volunteers six months in to the program.

Members of the public inspired to get growing at Montacute Farmers Market

Plant Sale organised by Master Gardener Alison Hayward at South Somerset Mind in Yeovil

Supporting Households
Master Gardeners regularly support a rolling pool of up to five households to grow their own food, staying in touch for 12 months to help them through their first growing season. Households can be found through events and community outreach, and most commonly through personal networks. Our Somerset Master Gardeners are now supporting 37 different households with more than 83 people mentored in these households. 24 of these mentees are under 16 and benefiting from learning about growing food. Households are in every district of Somerset and grow at every scale from window boxes to community gardens Alison Hayward works as a Horticultural Therapist with South Somerset Mind, on a community allotment called the Vanessa Project. She finds her mentees through her role and is now able to give them more support over the growing season. In Somerset we also have the first wife to ex-wife Master Gardener mentee relationship, showing the scheme is truly working for social inclusion!
A householder learning container growing

What the Master Gardeners have been giving advice about...

Clearing overgrown gardens Companion planting Composting Container planting Crop identification Crop rotations Feeding & plant nutrition Frost protection Fruit bushes Ground covers Growing potatoes Growing tomatoes Growing with younger children Harvesting Herbs Indoor & outdoor sowing Low maintenance gardening Moving compost bins No-dig methods Nutrient deficiencies Pests & diseases Permaculture Plant identification Planting out Polytunnel growing Preparing the ground ready for growing Pruning Seed varieties Slugs & snails Soft fruit growing Sowing seeds Watering & water conservation What to sow next Where & what to plant Where to buy seeds Where to start Window box gardening

Rachel Shirley even brought her households together for tea and cake so they could meet, share tips theyd picked up from Rachel and feel part of group in learning how to grow.

Householder Julias first veg garden

Michele Darnell-Roberts describes her favourite Master Gardener moment; I called to see Julia to talk about her vegetable growing. She showed me what she had sown, and the veg patch she had established, even with a wire fence and gate around it to keep off rabbits and deer. She was very proud of this! She has been growing spinach, beans, squash, peas, and more - all doing well. She was proud of this as it is the first time she has grown vegetables. As I left she said, Growing doesnt feel scary now..., I know I can do it.

Somerset Master Gardeners are supporting 37 different households, with more than 83 people
Master Gardener Liz Passmore at the sharing advice on no-dig gardening.

Master Gardener Caroline Brown with two local children showing how to sow seeds

Promoting food growing

A second key part of the Master Gardener role is promoting food growing to the wider community. It is an area the the Somerset Master Gardeners have excelled in - each of them in different ways have widely promoted food growing. A large number have given up their Saturdays to do stalls at events, spent their evenings talking to gardening clubs, and given their afternoons to after-school growing clubs and more.

Somerset Master Gardeners have had more than 1010 food growing conversations Where Somerset Master Gardeners & Food Growing have been promoted...
Bishops Palace Community Garden Open Day Burnham on Sea Food & Drink Festival Burnham on Sea Harvest Festival Crewkerne Farmers Market Evercreech Allotments Summer BBQ Evercreech Plant Show Frome Potato Day & Seed Swap Glastonbury Harvest Show Glastonbury Seed Swap Good Food For Everyone Forever, Local Food Feast in Glastonbury Green Scythe Fair Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens Ilminster Forum Mental Health Awareness Week, Yeovil Montacute Farmers Market Plant Sale at Village Social Club, Coxley South West Permaculture Convergence Stoke St Gregory Village Hall AGM Sustainability Show Taunton Vegan Fayre Wookey Flower Show

Master Gardeners Caroline Brown, Jemma Marsh and Gail Coleshil at Crewkerne Farmers Market

Master Gardener Charles Birch giving advice

Free advice & resources for households

Master Gardener Alison Hayward & mentee in Yeovil

Case Study: Grow & Gossip

Not every Master Gardener finds a one-toone household to mentor. Some like to reach a lot of households at once, and one example is Dawn Quince, a market gardener based in Hinton, South Somerset. She started a Grow and Gossip group at her local community shop. The club is a fun and informal chance for people to learn new skills, swap tips and discuss the challenges of vegetable growing. She has already led free workshops on the organic control of slugs and snails, seed sowing and more. The group then also tends the garden of Our Shop for a bit of practical experience and fun together.

Master Gardeners Gail Coleshill & Rachel Shirley at Ilminster Forum

Inspiring the Next Generation

More than 24 people living in the households supported by Somerset Master Gardeners are under 16. Volunteer Jo Valentine has been supporting a family with a three year old to fill containers, sow seed and take care of the garden through the year. Jo and fellow Master Gardener Faye Shortley have also been sharing gardening skills with an after school club in Stoke St Gregory.

Master Gardeners in the Media

Master Gardeners also write articles and send press releases about their activities. These spread the food growing message even further, reaching thousands of local people. Master Gardener Liz Shields spent the whole day recording at Glastonbury Harvest Show with local radio station, Glastonbury FM to raise awareness about local food growing projects and support available from Master Gardeners. Others have been on BBC Somerset and in local newspapers.

Child at Stoke St Gregory After School Club, learning seed saving

Volunteer Support
All of our volunteers have benefited from a supportive structure for their work. The networking and relationship building can play a key role in sustaining volunteer momentum and being linked with highly esteemed national charity, Garden Organic, means access to professional, wellresearched resources and a wider network of inspiration around the Country. This partnership supports recruitment and retainment of volunteers and creates a framework for people passionate about promoting food growing to gain feedback and acknowledgment of their work. Volunteers participate in an active two-day induction course, and are also invited to attend training and support days throughout the year. In Somerset, the group visited organic no-dig gardener Charles Dowding, have had a support day at a local permaculture project, and attended the National Volunteer Masters Conference, which brings together

growing and composting mentors from around the country. Master Gardeners are able to talk to their Volunteer Coordinator about any challenges they face and are able to become part of the wider community food network locally through invitations to events and other opportunities.It is very important that every Master Gardener has the ability to develop their skills and confidence through the scheme.
Master Gardeners at No Dig Workshop with Charles Dowding

Master Gardener Liz Shields taking notes for her households at the workshop

The Impact of Master Gardeners

Garden Organic partnered with Coventry University to quantify the impacts of the Master Gardener programmes in the UK. The data in the table to the right shows some of the results. As evidenced there are very real and tangible benefits of the programme that are positively affecting thousands of people across the UK. It is very clear that even only at the halfway point, there are still some amazing results to share. Somerset Master Gardeners are working at a household level that every local charity would desire, they are reaching the general public more creatively and effectively than any number of paid staff and they are genuinely inspiring people who they meet to start, and stay growing.

National Statistics
After one year volunteering, Garden Organic Master Gardeners: 69% feel greater sense of community 84% more satisfied with life 82% volunteer retention 95% increased growing knowledge with 75% growing wider range of food With 12 months support, mentored households: 80% growing more food 25% spending less on food 95% enjoy involvement 33% now spend 3-5 hours/week growing food (50%: 1-2 hours/week)
Research from Coventry University; 215 round 1 & 2 respondents, Sept. 12.

What next?
More and more people want to grow their own for a healthy diet and lifestyle, to learn skills, save money, connect with nature, build community, practise environment-friendly organic gardening, and contribute to national food security. As evidenced above, the Master Gardener model is an incredibly effective way of supporting people to get growing, with numerous other social and community benefits. In order to reach more people, the network needs to grow. Current Master Gardeners need to be supported to develop their practice, learn new skills and be even more effective food champions. New volunteers can be recruited to continue the work and reach more people in more areas. Somerset is a huge county, in order to negotiate its geography, a larger number of Master Gardeners is desirable. To establish, coordinate and support this network, funding is obviously necessary for co-ordination time and running costs. Therefore we are seeking independent and public funders that can recognise this work as important and help contribute towards keeping it going in Somerset, so that more families can achieve greater well being and more food can be grown.
Somerset Community Food 33a High Street Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 9HT Tel : 0300 365 0360

In a wider context it is clear there is a missing generation of skilled growers. Today only 3% of farmers are under 35. Some estimates suggest that more than one third of people will need to be engaged in food production in a world not dependent on industrial agriculture and the petroleum-based inputs essential to it. Therefore supporting people in our communities to learn how to grow may be the key to creating the resilient, food-secure villages and towns necessary in Somersets future.

Master Gardener Charles Birch uses his own garden as a teaching space

Interested in becoming a Master Gardener? Get in touch!


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