I know it’s not about the numbers but here’s a few figures that shine a light on what we do.
It cost just £7,580 a month to keep the Forest Garden going. For that we deliver:
Two weekly workdays at the garden which over 50 people attend. Everyone gets a tasty, nutritious home-cooked lunch to say thank you for volunteering
Outdoor one-to-one education for pupils struggling at school at the garden as well as working with
32 pupils a week at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA)
30 pupils a week at Moulsecoomb Primary
Plus school trips, visits from other community gardens, students and researchers looking at the benefits of community gardens
But these numbers mean nothing, without the stories behind them.
And if there’s one thing I’m really proud of, is the garden giving opportunities to people who often find doors slammed shut in their faces.
We recently received this from Alice from St.Johns College who worked with Jo cooking amazing meals on a Friday “I went on a Friday for about 6 months. I got to know all the volunteers and learners really well and they are very friendly as it is such a relaxed atmosphere. I was cooking on an open fire in all kinds of weather. It was such a good experience, my time at forest garden made me more confident and independent. I would recommend it to others. It’s been a good opportunity to learn new skills that will stay with me for life.”
The pupils we work with struggle in the classroom but often excel outside, gaining confidence in their abilities and earning qualifications. Thanks to Sussex Community Foundation we were able to offer more outdoor learning opportunities.
One of these is H. ‘H has a natural, mature approach to working with tools, stays focused when learning something new, listens to instructions and asks questions if he doesn’t understand. He has a great ethic of not giving up and problem solving, has a real passion for working outdoors, turning up whatever the weather. He has also shown enthusiasm in working towards a qualification. H has a friendly personality showing a depth of understanding towards others at the project, always polite; a good ambassador for BACA.”
We’ve been working with a young lad in Year 3. He loves it at the forest garden, always getting stuck in with a big smile on his face. But as soon as I take him back to school, his demeanour changes. It’s not the schools fault, but an education system that is an outdated academic straightjacket trying to fit far too many square pegs into round holes. And too what end?
We can provide the opportunity for those pupils to learn those critical skills, and while demand for our outdoor education is growing, its very frustrating that we haven’t got the resources to meet that demand.
Because given the chance, these youngsters are the environmentalists, countryside rangers, wildlife conservationists and outdoor teachers of the future.
However, routes into the world of wildlife conservation are limited, and many do not have the family help, connections or financial support that others benefit from. So our current mission is to find organisations and business that can see that one of the country’s most white, middle-class professions is long overdue a fork up its bum and a fresh perspective. If you know anyone send them our way.
Thanks to Keith and an army of grafters, we transformed the area opposite the cabin. It had its debut at our open day which was the best ever with people running the gate, doing tours, helping with the cafe. That new space also means we can accommodate school trips during workdays. Thanks to Fonthill Foundation 10th anniversiary funding every year group in Moulsecoomb Primary will be visiting at least twice, building on the skills and knowledge they learn from me and Daisy when we work at the school on Thursdays.
There’s been some changes. Unfortunately Ash who worked with Pat at BACA had to leave us for a better paid job, which part prompted our call to more funding for local kids. Luckily for us Loui has stepped in and is doing a top job. Ben is now looking after the bees. And we have a new trustee Ruth.
I’ve got to say a word about our trustees who have to be the most hands on in the country. As well as their behind-the-scenes work Susie, Mick, Ross and Duncan are usually at the garden on a Friday while Julie works tirelessly trying to balance our very precarious books!
Then there’s Rachel who produced an in depth report on Home Farm Field and how it could be so much richer in wildlife and wildflowers with some simple changes to the cutting regime.
Thanks once again to The Pebble Trust we ran Easter and summer holiday schemes for Moulsecoomb Primary children. We’ve had ducks hiding in our pond, carers centre using the place for play therapy, people hiring us for lunch clubs, Jools for a festival show, a lively Curry-oke AGM and finally our end of year Christmas party with over 50 people enjoying dinner thanks to Jo and a veg chopping army of volunteers.
All in all another successful year.
* Become a Friend of the Forest Garden and help to make us as sustainable as the fruit and veg we grow by setting up a regular donation