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Future beacons – after our ‘Local Food’ funding

Future beacons – after our ‘Local Food’ funding

Garden Organic met with fellow ‘Beacon’ grant projects in April 2013 to plan ways to continue our education work after funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme.

I was joined by the South London Master Gardener co-ordinator, Fiona Law, where we met 20 delivery managers at a ‘Shared Learning Exchange’ visit.

Our two days were kindly hosted by Jacqueline Leach and her team at Commonwork in Kent.

Two messages were clear.

1. Prove and promote impact

There was no shortage of belief in our work among the 20 enthusiasts, which included Local Food grant managers Mark Wheddon and Maria Marsden.

The challenge is turning the passion we share for sharing local food into persuasive evidence using a language for which funders can respond.

For instance, we learnt an array of imaginative ways to monitor education work at one or more locations. Recording our achievements (and failures) was termed critical for sustaining success – where time must be found to collate stories and output numbers, even when busy delivering.

Then evaluation. Who cares that more people grow and eat local food? Where’s the testimony and independent voice showing outcomes beyond a radish? And how much does each intervention cost, compared with another (perhaps newer) idea, and compared for social return on investment?

Click here for Local Food’s take on this ‘so what’ scenario with their ‘More than just the veg’ report (link opens PDF).

Next for impact, is shouting. Swapping the quiet modesty of food growers for time dedicated to promotion, with mainstay and newer media. Wrapping up the outputs and outcomes into the funding equivalent of a menu to tempt our target customers. Whether these diners are long term volunteers, retained skilled staff, councillors, colleges, housing managers, etc.

This leads to models, as below.


2. Marketable model that secure funders

The accompanying message is turning the promotion of impact into a service and/or product that customers can buy to help meet their remit.

For instance, public health authorities are commissioning Garden Organic to delivery bespoke Master Gardener networks to help meet obesity reduction targets through community activity. This is based on the following three thoughts.

  1. Our lively rural and city-dwelling volunteers share their wondrous methods to find and mentor people to grow veg for meal time. Volunteers benefit in equally diverse ways, and they engage with support from their local co-ordinator. Thank you.
  2. Confidence boost that the Master Gardener role does sustain positive ‘behavioural change’ for people taking part in the programme. This is stated by an independent evaluation by Coventry University showing health, social and environmental impacts for volunteers and their mentees. Further thanks. Promotion brochure and events are in preparation this summer.
  3. Commercial pricing for each part of a Master Gardener network where – based on precedent, Garden Organic can deliver similar achievements in another scenario or location. In particular, managed mentor network with training, resources, and celebration.

Each Beacon project is developing and marketing their own model to sustain and expand on their pilot funding. The odds are better than for business start-ups, but equal to an expanding business, for which preparation and opportunity will yield success.


Concluding thoughts

Networking the Beacon projects

The April 2013 visit was the first time where Beacon projects – the largest Local Food grant holders, got together. We exchanged ideas that work at comparable scale and available resources. Another visit is likely. Keeping in touch is definite.

Co-ordinator Fiona Law commented: “We could network and share experiences of working to promote food growing in a relaxed setting. Evidencing social return on investment and celebration of projects were main themes.” Read Fiona’s full report here.

List of Beacon projects at the April 2013 visit: Brighton and Hove Food Partnership; Commonwork; Global Generation; Growing Greenwich; Incredible Edible Food Hub; Learning through Landscapes; and Sutton Community Farm.

Notes by Caroline Schofield of Brighton Permaculture are available from Commonwork’s report here. These notes form an extensive and practical record from the unique crowd of food growing champions.


Get involved

Come the national conference for volunteer mentors

Garden Organic is hosting their Shared Learning Exchange visit at the national volunteers conference on the 28 September 2013 at Ryton Gardens, Coventry.

We’re inviting Local Food funded projects with a ‘volunteer mentor’ element to join the day for free. There will be practical training and networking with industry experts and fellow food growing champions.

Read about the 2012 conference here, where 200 Master Gardeners and Master Composters were sent to Coventry…

The 2013 conference programme is due soon. Please get in touch with me for further details about our funded places.

Places are limited.


Further information



  • Local Food is a £59.8 million programme that distributes grants from the Big Lottery Fund to a variety of food-related projects that are helping to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to local communities. Visit
  • Photo courtesy of Commonwork. See more at this Dropbox link.


Report by Master Gardener Programme manager, Philip Turvil, at Garden Organic



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