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Celebration as programme extended by six months

Celebration as programme extended by six months

Another 80 volunteers will support hundreds more people in the UK to grow their own food thanks to a six month extension of the Master Gardener programme.

This is thanks to the ongoing support from the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme, together with Sheepdrove Trust and our local authority partners. The current programme will now run from September 2009 to February 2013.

The programme team at Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity, are delighted to announce the following plans to make the most of this special opportunity.

What this extension means: please click links for details

Find out what’s happening near you:

Plus Lincolnshire training, funding by the NHS supported ‘Health and Wellbeing Fund’.

Visit Garden Organic’s Master Composter networks near you

Find out more about Garden Organic

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Master Gardeners help 30,000 people grow food

Master Gardeners help 30,000 people grow food

Garden Organic’s Master Gardeners have excelled themselves in helping communities grow their own food.

Our autumn/winter reports reports have revealed the latest achievements of the volunteer networks in Warwickshire, Norfolk and London.

Thanks to our partners: local authorities, Sheepdrove Trust, and Big Lottery fund’s Local Food scheme.

Thanks to our team: Kate, Kate, Fiona, and Gabbie. Together with all the keen folk at Garden Organic.

Just the facts – May 2010 to Nov 2011

  • 9,051 recorded volunteer hours helping people grow fruit and veg.
  • 85% (263) of trained Master Gardeners out and about in their community. Thank you.
  • Nearly 250 more households this quarter, totalling 1,134 mentored. Includes 2,532 residents growing food; 816 under 16.
  • Another 5,650 conversations, totalling 27,395 people helped.
  • 69 new community groups/events supported, totalling 355.

Behind the numbers: case studies

We’re training another 80 Master Gardeners in spring 2012.
Please click here to get involved…

We trained 85 new volunteers during in autumn 2011.
Please click here to find out how…

NEWS! Lincolnshire network makes an impact

Our Lincolnshire programme has grown hugely since beginning in March 2011 thanks to co-ordinator Rick Aron and – now six local authority partners with the Health and Wellbeing Fund/NHS.

  • 51 lovely volunteers reporting an amazing 400 hours.
  • 41 households with over 100 residents focused on new community gardens.
  • Over 1,500 food growing conversations

The future

We’ve put together new proposals for creating local, tailored Master Gardener networks for new funding and operational partners. We’re trialling these at the moment…

Click here to read more about future areas.

With many thanks,

Philip Turvil

Project Manager,
Master Gardener Programme, Garden Organic

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Thank you: 22,000 conversations, 900 mentored

Thank you: 22,000 conversations, 900 mentored

Latest reports reveal achievements of 192 wonderful volunteers as we conclude our  second year.

We’re delighted and grateful for how well Master Gardeners networks have come together to help people grow their own food in Warwickshire, Norfolk and London.

Ongoing thanks to our partners: local authorities, Sheepdrove Trust, and Big Lottery fund’s Local Food  scheme.

Ongoing thanks to our dedicated and cheery team: Kate, Kate, Fiona, and Gabbie. Together with all the keen folk at Garden Organic (…and Sarah with her new baby-Master-Gardener, Eliza).

Just the facts – May 2010 to August 2011

  • 7,219 recorded volunteer hours helping people grow fruit and veg
  • 85% of trained Master Gardeners out and about in their community. Delighted.
  • 899 households mentored to grow food since May 2010. Includes 2061 residents; 700 under 16. Splendid.
  • 21,745 community conversations since May 2010. This is 10% above our three-year target.
  • 286 local events and community groups supported by Master Gardeners. Lovely lovely.
  • 40,000 hits on five Master Gardeners websites.

Case studies

Celebrating veg!

More Master Gardeners just trained….

We’ve just trained 85 new volunteers during four weekends in September and October 2011, so there are now 277 Master Gardeners as part of our Local Food programme.

Please click here to read the local stories.


Where next?

Our Lincolnshire programme has grown hugely since beginning in March 2011 thanks to co-ordinator Rick Aron and local authority partners with the NHS. There are now 53 county Master Gardeners supporting households and exciting new community gardens.

Please click here to read case studies.


The future

We’ve put together new proposals for creating local, tailored Master Gardener networks for new funding and operational partners. We’re trialling these at the moment…

Click here to read more about future areas.

With many thanks,

Philip Turvil

Project Manager,
Master Gardener Programme

Master Gardener Carol with the pupils of Belfry School, displaying their veg art.

Master Gardeners graduate, with Hidcote Head Gardener, Glyn Jones and Sarah Mallison.

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120 new Master Gardeners support food growing

120 new Master Gardeners support food growing

There are now 330 enthusiastic volunteers after another six training weekends in September and October 2011.

We’re delighted to welcome 120 new Master Gardeners to support their community growing food in Warwickshire, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, north London (around Islington), and south London (around Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham).

Click here to find local events and your chance of 12 months free food growing support…

Please click the links to see local stories about our two-day induction training courses

Some photo highlights… see more here

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Volunteers all set to support local schools…

Volunteers all set to support local schools…

On Saturday 8th October, 18 volunteer Master Gardeners and Master Composters from London, Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire gathered at Ryton Gardens for a day’s training in how to work with schools.

The day was led by Malcolm Smith and Ruth Hepworth from Garden Organic’s Education Team.

After a run-through of how schools plan their curriculum, health and safety issues, and technicalities, the group were soon planning a half term’s sessions for a school gardening club; and discovering how planting and harvesting times fit in (or not!) with the school year.

In groups, the volunteers prepared presentations, assemblies and group activities which they demonstrated to the wider group.

Feedback included:
“Very well judged day – clear and useful…..”
“This was well worth coming to, I have learnt so much.  “

…and participants returned home ready to face the challenge of working with schools:

“I now have confidence to work with the schools, targeting specific activities”
“I will review what I do with the children: ascertain more details of size of group, plan accordingly and offer more of a range of activities to schools.”

Master Gardeners and Master Composters gather at schools training

Top tips from volunteers for working in schools

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New study measures impact of Master Gardeners

New study measures impact of Master Gardeners

Garden Organic have launched new research this week to find out the impact of lovely Master Gardeners in Warwickshire, London, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

We’re delighted to have teamed up with Coventry University to discover the health, environmental and social impacts of over 250 volunteers helping nearly 1,000 mentored households and speaking to over 15,000 residents in diverse communities.

There’s lots of good stuff coming up:

Step one: until the 30 September 2011

Master Gardener Vicky and her householder Linda with prize cauli! Joined by Guardian journalist Chris Arnot in central London

a) We sending questionnaires to every household mentored by a volunteer Master Gardener  – all the individuals, couples and families whose 12 months free food growing advice started between May to October 2010.

All these households kindly returned a registration form to their volunteer Master Gardener with contact details and a bit about their food growing at the time. Our new, larger questionnaire collects the latest data as a very important part of evaluating the impact of the Master Gardener Programme.

Click here to find your local Master Gardener for 12 months free growing advice

b) We’re also sending questionnaires to every Master Gardener trained in 2010. Whether or not they’re still volunteering with us, we’re keen to evaluate the impact of the programme on their life. This follows a volunteer survey each Master Gardener kindly returned at their induction training.

Click here to become a Master Gardener…

Step two: all go in November

We’re hosting household interviews and Master Gardener focus groups in every area. It’s very exciting.

With Coventry University’s guidance, our eager co-ordination team are out and about gathering more qualitative thoughts from our beneficiaries.

Watch out for news articles this autumn…

Step three: going public

We’ll publish interim findings early in the 2012 before subsequent reports.

Read the pilot findings so far…

Together with other research, we’ll write to households registered from November 2010 to collect more data…

And of course, we’ll continue to publish the later numbers and case studies every quarter. Latest stories below:

NEWS: Amazed! Master Gardeners help 17,000 people…

CASE STUDY: In the words of Master Gardeners…

Who’s who?

Master Gardeners

Volunteers recruited, trained, and supported by Garden Organic to mentor households wanting to start growing food or grow more. The programme is funded with local support and Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Scheme.

Garden Organic

We’re the UK’s leading organic growing charity, dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools.

Coventry University

Researchers 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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Four garden tours celebrate growing

Four garden tours celebrate growing

Master Gardeners eagerly gathered at four special tours in July in every programme area.

Each training day focused on inspiring garden visits and graduations. We swapped growing tips too for helping others get started and, as always, reviewed the good and bad bits of being a Master Gardener to improve the programme.

We also introduced top tips from Love Food Hate Waste and the innovative I Don’t Dig Peat campaign launched by Garden Organic earlier in July.

Our warm thank you to everyone who came and helped organise these occasions. Our next ‘in-service’ training days follow our training for new volunteers in autumn! Click here for details about becoming a Master Gardener…

Top left photo: young plot holder Macauley showing Master Gardeners what local residents are growing.

Please click the following links/photos to read local stories…

Warwickshire volunteers begun at Hidcote Manor Gardens, including volunteer graduations kindly presented by head gardener, Glyn.
Norfolk volunteers continued at Salle Walled Gardens with a glorious tour, joined by some mentored households, as well as certificates for Master Gardener awards.
London volunteers from Islington and southerly boroughs enjoyed exotic crop training with experts from Sowing New Seeds and Brockwell Park Community Glasshouses.
Lincolnshire volunteers finished July’s training in Horncastle swapping growing tips and welcoming guests from the local community garden.

Click here to find out more about Master Gardeners

Article by Philip Turvil

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Garden Organic joins national volunteers conference

Garden Organic joins national volunteers conference

Nearly 100 industry folk gathered in mid July to discuss ways of managing volunteers at PlantNetwork’s conference. Garden Organic’s Master Gardener programme was there to swap ideas for recruiting, training, and supporting lovely volunteers.

As with Brussels sprouts, there was no consensus. Yet themes did emerge from botanic, historic, and educational organisations for what to do and why.

Some summary impressions below, with weblinks to further thoughts.

How many? Stats stats stats

  • 500,000 volunteers across the land based sector

    Volunteer built workshop at Westonbirt Arboretum

    Volunteer built workshop at Westonbirt Arboretum

  • Most volunteers are white British
  • Half of volunteers have other volunteer roles
  • Staff:volunteer ratio is 1:4 or higher in gardens/parks
  • LANTRA are publishing more details soon from latest research…


Thank you, but no more…

Conference folk visiting Bath Botanic Gardens that's soon to recruit volunteers

Too many volunteers create false economy. A ‘saturation point’ where staff can’t properly delegate, train, or monitor volunteers. This messes up efforts/attrition on both sides.

RBG Kew has 300 volunteers on their waiting list, while the Master Gardener team trains in groups or 20-30 so they have time to attend to new volunteers during and after the course. Suggestions:

  • Revise work plans to increase capacity. Break down tasks into ‘volunteer bite’ chunks. Involve volunteers in decision making and communication. Recruit for specialised roles. Ask for ideas from volunteers, and about other skills they have (and not fed up of using).
  • Train staff how to manage volunteers, eg courses from LANTRA and Environmental Trainers Network. (Note: many staff use this supervisory experience in job applications.)
  • Train volunteers to train other volunteers. Such as the hierarchies of increasing experienced guides with curator Nick Wray at the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens. Here the volunteer community supports a succession of new guides and specialisms.


Top tips

  • Train volunteers. Hugely increases retention and performance, eg H&S, plant idents, role details. Nymans Garden even targets volunteers with an interest in professional horticulture and have structured work placements/training.
  • Have volunteer agreements, outlining ‘reasonable expectations’ of both parties. But never a ‘contract’, so volunteers can’t claim employment and associated protections. Click here for ‘Volunteers and the Law’ by Mark Restall (free PDF).
  • If possible, pay out-of-pocket expense for costs the person incurred because they volunteered. You otherwise risk limiting your potential volunteers to wealthier communities, so reducing diversity. It was reported that some people can’t afford to volunteer unless their fuel is paid, but also reported that many organisations can’t afford to pay expenses.
  • Volunteers are thoroughly appreciated and nicely reliable, although not as accountable or obliged as contracted, paid staff. So find out why they volunteer and tailor their experiences, eg team work, learn skills, meet people, believe in garden’s ethos/mission.
  • Invite volunteers to help on a small task or event first. Many volunteers stay longer… and it’s a useful trial for both sides.
  • Early communication is key in resolving potential conflicts and poor performance. Staff must step in swiftly to sort out health and safety concerns due to duty of care.

Fun phrases from the conference:

‘Currency of recognition/reward’
Eg. written thanks, references, awards, press coverage, certificates from own and other gardens, training.

“A good volunteer manager should have nothing to do!”.
Nicely put, but not right. Lots of work but huge returns. Volunteers must be purposefully managed.

Click links for further thoughts

Quiet bench at Bath Botanic Gardens; ideal for reading literature in links to the left

Final thought

I’ve volunteered inside and outside the industry at lots of places. On every occasion, the presence or absence of a willing, trained organiser is obvious and determines the quality of the work and retention. Just like staff, you need genuine appreciation and management of volunteers. And just like staff, this determines whether or not a programme or garden survives.

Special thanks to PlantNetwork for another marvellous conference, especially to Judy Cheney, Christopher Weddell, Pamela Smith, Dr David Rae, and other committee members. Further thanks my old training ground that hosted the conference, the University of Bath School of Management

Article by Philip Turvil

Did you know…? We’re now recruiting new Master Gardeners! Click here for all the details

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Amazed! Master Gardeners help 17,000 people…

Amazed! Master Gardeners help 17,000 people…

Since May 2010, over 221 volunteers have mentored 1,800 residents to grow their own food – and swapped growing tips with another 15,500 people at events, talks and more.

We’re delighted – impressed and proud of every achievement published in our latest reports for the sunny months of March, April and May 2011. Highlights below.

The team particularly enjoys supporting each Master Gardener’s unique approach to their role of helping people grow food.

Just the numbers

What’s been
happening?
April to Nov
2010
Dec 2010
to May 2011
Volunteers recruited, trained
and supported by our team
144
(nearly 95% retention)
225
(nearly 95% retention)
Households mentored to
grow food by volunteers.
366 (850 residents;
one third under 16)
830 (1830 residents;
over one third under 16)
People spoken to about
food growing
8760 (includes 124 community events)
15,446 (includes 225 community events)

We’ve also trained another 17 Master Gardeners in Lincolnshire in April 2011 with support from the Health and Wellbeing Fund. Click here for details. Already households, case studies and food growing conversations are pouring in from this new, enthusiastic network.

Inspiring stories behind the numbers


Being a Master Gardener

Master Gardeners have regular training days

Volunteers offer 30 hours a year – or 5.8 minutes a day…

They keenly advise individuals, couples and families as mentored ‘households'; people found online, via community gardens, neighbours and other routes. Click here to find your nearest Master Gardener.

Master Gardeners also reach their ‘wider community’ where every food growing conversation counts. This includes local events, talks, stalls, schools, workplaces, community gardens and other innovative routes.

This programme launched April 2010 when we trained our first volunteers thanks to the support from the Big Lottery fund’s Local Food scheme, Sheepdrove Trust and local authority match funding. Click here for details.

Our enthusiastic network of Master Gardeners responds directly to Garden Organic’s core charity aim – helping people grow organically. We’re dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food.

So what’s next?

MG Paul (left) advises pub landlord Neil

  1. Recruit brand new volunteers in Warwickshire, Islington, South London, Norfolk and Lincolnshire
  2. Look for new households to mentor and dates for community outreach
  3. Continue our one-to-one volunteer support and improve the programme – please contact with ideas

We’re looking to start Master Gardener programmes in your area with new local partners and funders, tailored to local needs. Please read our future areas page.

With thanks

Philip Turvil, on behalf of the Master Gardener team

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New schools training for volunteers

New schools training for volunteers

Last Saturday, 24 Master Gardener and Master Composter volunteers came to Ryton Gardens, home of Garden Organic, for a day’s training on how to work with and support schools.

This exciting new course was run by two of the Garden Organic’s Food for Life Partnership education team – Ruth Hepworth and Malcolm Smith.

The day covered how to approach schools; how to plan with schools for growing throughout the school year; and how to do presentations and assemblies.

There were plenty of activities and practical tasks for everyone to share; and many useful discussions. We’re looking forward to hearing how volunteers get on via their activity logs…

All important feedback

Course feedback included:

“A very stimulating session…”

“Today has given me lots of enthusiasm…”

“I will now deliver better projects for the schools that I am involved with”.

Master Composter Jeremy shares his experiences

The next schools training session is the 8 October 2011 – although it’s already full! But if you’re a Master Gardener or Master Composter co-ordinator or volunteer, please click here to let us know you’re interested.

Further information

Story by Malcolm Smith and Philip Turvil

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We’re creating a model to establish custom networks of volunteer Master Gardeners in more UK areas. More information available here.

Photos on flickr