After the hard labours of preparing ground, picking the first harvest of vegetables from a newly cultivated plot can be a hugely satisfying experience, particularly if life itself is a challenge.
In the summer, a group of Eco Rangers, enthusiastic young students with complex learning needs had just that reward at Green Light Trust.
In November, 2012, GLT applied for funding to start a horticultural training programme for seven young students from Lapwing, Suffolk (an organisation consisting of outstanding educationalists and learning support staff, who use all their skills to design and deliver a wide range of individual programmes to their students; to provide quality learning to realise individual aspirations and goals for their students). The aims of the programme were to complement the environmental work done by them, to encourage personal development and develop vocational skills. With the support of our funders, in particular the Kerrison Trust and Babergh District Council, we were able to establish the training area.
Work began in February to build four raised planting beds by clearing the ground of an area of blackthorn and brambles, chipping the scrub and setting it aside to be used as a surfacing material. In early March, the students enjoyed the process of constructing the raised beds – especially when using the drill!
As the weeks went by you could see the students gaining a real sense of achievement as the whole area started to take shape. In April they planted a mixture of seeds, established plants, fruit bushes and other vegetable crops. Unfortunately, a few plants were lost to rabbits and birds - but it was a valuable lesson for the students and reinforced their learning in making sure adequate fencing was put in place, and sticks to ward off birds.
The Eco Rangers weeded, watered and cared for the vegetables diligently every week and during the last session before the summer break the first harvest was picked, including courgettes, marrows, beans and carrots – much to the delight of everyone involved. The whole exercise resulted in the students achieving their Entry level 2 Practical Environmental and Conservation Skills Award. Inspired by their achievements, plans are under way for autumn/winter crops and for how the scheme can be developed further. A poly tunnel is soon to be added giving access to even more learning opportunities!