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Words: Kate Chapman
Photography: Garden Organic
Featured in the July 2012 issue

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For anyone who’s always fancied living the Good Life but found the prospect of growing their own fruit and veg too daunting, help is at hand to get county residents on the road to self-sufficiency…

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re blessed with green fingers, or if you’ve just got a small window box to cultivate, the Lincolnshire Master Gardener scheme is here to give everyone the chance to pick up free tips, advice and guidance from their own specially trained community volunteers.

The project, which has already been successfully rolled out in Norfolk, Warwickshire, Islington and several London boroughs, was launched in parts of Lincolnshire last year and has recently been started in the South Holland district.

Master Gardeners aims to get everyone – ranging from individuals and families, to community groups and schools – growing their own fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers by giving them access to growing advice from local experts, all specially trained by Garden Organic, the country’s leading organic growing charity.

As well as being on hand to offer support and guidance the Master Gardeners – there are currently sixty-seven across the county – also give talks, hold stalls and events and each one mentors ten households, providing them with a year of invaluable free support as they start out on their journey to grow their own produce.

Garden Organic says that society has developed a huge interest in growing food and healthy eating – and the public’s demand for allotments, advice and support has also massively increased thanks to high profile campaigns, food and health concerns, community growing networks and people being intent on growing their own local, organic produce.

Lincolnshire volunteer co-ordinator, Rick Aron said Master Gardeners want to support these interested people – giving them reasons to grow their own food, teaching them growing skills and offering support. They also promote related healthy eating activities and have their own areas of special interest such as community groups, schools, housing estates, allotments, composting and health and well-being.

Mr Aron said: “The scheme has been very successful so far and we’ve had a lot of interest. In Lincolnshire it is now operating in six of the seven district council areas – North Kesteven, South Kesteven, East Lindsey, West Lindsey, Boston and in the last couple of months we’ve launched in South Holland too.

“All the Master Gardeners are trained by Garden Organic – some have a couple of years’ growing experience and others have more. They come from all walks of life and are there to provide expert advice in their own areas. Growing produce in the Wolds is very different to doing so in the Fens, due to the different climates and soil types, for example.”

The Garden Organic ethos is that anyone can grow their own food – whether it be in the garden, allotment, on their balcony, a windowsill or a piece of communal land –nothing is too small when it comes to growing.

Mr Aron agrees, saying that whatever the crop, whatever the space, food growing is important for a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“It also saves money, teaches skills and brings people together,” he said.

Green-fingered duo, Glenys Bower-Macer and Jane Broome are heading up the new ten-strong team in South Holland and are urging everyone to get in touch and utilise their skills.

Jane said: “Now’s a good time to be thinking about buying some seeds and getting them going, whether you have a window box, a patio or yard for some ports or a back garden, large or small.

“There’s really no need to worry if you don’t know what to do, contact us and we could be round to give you all the advice you need to get you started and support you.

“It’s cheaper than buying veg, it’s fresher and when you harvest those first few salad leaves or potatoes it gives you a great sense of satisfaction.”

Thanks to the project there are already several established and active community growing spaces around Boston and East Lindsey, including Boston’s Central Park plus a community food garden, herb garden and raised beds in Louth. Mabelthorpe also has its own community garden and more similar projects are planned in the North Kesteven and West Lindsey districts.

Since the Master Gardener program was launched in the UK in 2010, more than 300 volunteers have mentored almost 3,000 residents on the benefits of growing their own and swapped growing tips with a around 30,000 people at various talks and events.

The scheme is part of Garden Organics Local Food Program (2009 – 2013) with more networks being established up and down the country all the time.

In Lincolnshire the project is supported by the Health and Well-being Fund, which is a partnership between NHS Lincolnshire and Lincolnshire County Council, and supported by the district councils; the fund’s remit being to support people to improve their lifestyles in ways that are likely to benefit themselves and others.

Funding for the Lincolnshire Master Gardener program is due to finish at the end of this year but Mr Aron explained this does not necessarily mean the end of the scheme, as there are hopes it might be extended, while some of the experts have expressed an interest to continue by themselves.

* You can find out more about the project and who your Lincolnshire Master Gardeners are by visiting www.lincolnshire.mastergardeners.org or alternatively email raron@gardenorganic.co.uk or call him on 07584474779.

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