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Fiona Law

Fiona Law

As the programme comes to a pause I thought I’d do a final case study on myself, before I move on. I’ve been involved in the South London Master Gardener programme since the beginning, first as a Master Gardener and now 3 years in the Co-ordinator role. It’s been a wonderful opportunity professionally and for personal fulfillment. Just as I’ve seen many Master Gardeners develop, I can reflect on my own development.

I’ve really enjoyed curating the website, and through doing this have set up WordPress sites for my business and community growing projects. I’ve been able to develop my gardening journalism, partly mentored by my exceptional former colleague, Philip Turvil,  a member of the The Garden Media Guild.

Philip was the Programme manager until he left to work at Kew recently, and one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with. Diligent, subtle, knowledgable and generous – and a unique way with enthusiasm. Terrific! I learnt so much and his personality and drive certainly infused the programme.

My co-Co-ordinators – Katethen Nynke in North London, Kate N in Cov/Warks, Gabbie in Norfolk, Rick in Lincs, Lisa in Medway – have all been super creative, supportive and friends. It’s also been fun working with researchers Anton Rosenfeld on training and Ulrich Schmutz from HQ in Ryton on EU Foodmetres, and with Moya Kneafsey and Lizzi Bos from Coventry University.

And I can safely say I have learnt something (or many things) from each of the Master Gardeners, from horticultural tips through to ways of working with others. I’ve so enjoyed the process of recruiting, inducting, supporting, and mentoring. It always warms my heart to have the reports of their activities, supporting beginner growers with thoughtfulness, creativity and, not least, their time. The case studies highlight some of the exceptional work that’s gone on, but the unique one-to-one interaction mainly goes un-recorded. It is appreciated and understood, though.

Our extra training days and socials are characterised by the non-stop chatter of like-minded food growing enthusiasts.  How lovely to talk varieties and techniques to your heart’s desire. I’ve seen how being in the programme has brought return of self-esteem after redundancy in more than a few cases, becoming a key member making a difference in a community project, making new friends, and simple growers’ joy at trying exotic crops, for instance. We’ve had some super catering, great venues and lots of tea and cake.

Our Education and Learning award really highlighted the value of the programme. This is exemplified in a cascade, from the training we give the Master Gardeners, the website and especially how the MGs share their knowledge with the families, schools and groups they support. They also do it at events and in casual food-growing conversations with friends, colleagues and strangers at bus stop! See the slideshow here for some of our events ‘best bits’.

The Master Gardener programme really is a force for skilling up the nation to enjoy the benefits of growing your own.   We have been in talks with possible future funders tailoring programmes to community cohesion, health and well-being, housing association resident engagement, schools, corporate volunteering and retirees, for instance. Colleagues at Garden Organic in Coventry are working on future partnerships, and some of the programmes have already funding from health and local authorities to continue a partial programme.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have a berth in the London Borough of Lambeth offices, where I have greatly benefited from hospitality and many laughs, sited between Sustainability and Food Safety. I’ve had a chance to do some MG-ing of my own. We’ve had two full seasons of tomatoes and chilis in this lovely ’60s block with its big windows and wide windowsills. I’ve developed other community cropping projects in this three years, and really enjoyed the synergy of linking locally Lambeth, where I live.

Underpinning the pleasure of working for Garden Organic has been the solidness of the organic principles embodied by the organisation, and to be part of the mission to give sound organic horticultural and agricultural information advice. It’s been very satisfying to have this arena to bring together skills and experience in training, growing and volunteer management, and contribute practically to gearing up for  food security.

Next I am travelling and exploring, initially giving service at an ashram in France and later on organic farms.

I’d like to also thank my inspired colleague at Garden Organic, Margi Lennartsson (Head of Operations), and Sue Sheehan, Vivienne Thompson and Dave Bright at Lambeth Borough Council. Once again, hearfelt thanks again to the south London MGs, Philip and my co-Co-ordinators, Nynke, Kate, Gabbie, Lisa and Rick (click around the website to see their continuing programmes).

Please read here about our latest (last?) extra training day

See a slideshow of South London MG events ‘best bits’

And click here for contact and next steps (coming soon)

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