A group of adults with learning disabilities from Cornwall has been reaping the rewards of a charity grant and are now growing, cooking and eating food grown in their very own allotment.
The keen gardeners are supported by national charity Hft at its supported living service in St Austell, where they have been maximising the use of their on-site green space over the last four months. The service was awarded a £3,000 grant by the charity, allowing it to establish an allotment in some unused garden space in 2019. Complete with raised beds, homemade planters and a greenhouse, the project has gone from strength to strength during the pandemic by providing people with a stimulating and rewarding activity during an uncertain time.
Over the last few months, people supported at the service have embraced the chance to grow their own produce and learn new skills. Staff have empowered people to take a leading role from start to finish, with their responsibilities ranging from choosing seeds to plant, watering and pruning, to creating a scarecrow to keep the birds away. The team’s hard work has already paid off, with recent crops of courgettes, strawberries, cabbages and carrots going down a storm at dinnertime, and pumpkins well on the way in time for Halloween.
The project has been particularly beneficial during the pandemic, with people welcoming the chance to spend time maintaining the space as an alternative to the activities they would normally take part in within the community. As well as providing people with daily exercise and time outdoors, the project has created opportunities to learn new things, with staff teaching people more about nature, the food chain, healthy eating and where food comes from. The area has also been enjoyed by people with more complex needs at the service, who have experienced sensory benefits from the garden’s array of textures, smells and noises, which has created a relaxing sanctuary during an often uncertain time.
Funds for the project came from Hft’s very own Funds for the Future scheme, which uses donations left to the charity through gifts in Wills. Staff are encouraged to apply for the grants, which they can use to fund creative and innovative projects that make a difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities.
Rebecca, who uses the allotment, said: “I like the fact we can grow vegetables, I like the tomatoes and strawberries the best. It’s really good and makes me feel happy, I can go and spend time on my own over there and relax.”
Paris Milton, Registered Cluster Manager in Bradbury, said the project has been made even more beneficial due to the pandemic: “This project really has been proof that great things can grow from tiny seeds. While the last few months have been tough, people have been given a sense of purpose by having the chance to spend time outside every day tending to their plants. There have been so many brilliant outcomes during this project, spanning from people researching new recipes that use their homegrown food, to others expanding their palettes by trying out new fruits and vegetables. The project has also helped us all become more socially and environmentally aware. We have been focusing on educating people about the environment and ensuring we are doing our bit to be sustainable. Being able to grow our own food has really helped to get this point across.
“As lockdown eases, we’ll be continuing the work we have started and plan to enjoy this wonderful space for many months to come. We’re so grateful to the generous people who have left gifts to Hft in their Wills who have made this all possible.”