The project enables people with learning disabilities and autism to:
- learn and develop gardening skills
- enjoy the therapeutic benefits of gardening
- understand the benefits of growing your own produce and healthy eating
- take part in activities that benefit mental and physical health
- gain paid and voluntary work placements through Green Acre, our gardening maintenance social enterprise
Wantage Market Garden
Our Wantage Market Garden is a safe, calm space operated in partnership with Sustainable Wantage and Wantage Community Support Service. People we support, people we employ and volunteers have transformed a dilapidated area into a thriving garden, which produces flowers, vegetables and fruit. People who attend regularly grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables to enjoy at home. People can also undertake gardening training and work experience at the garden. We employ a Gardening Coordinator to deliver sessions at the Wantage Market Garden and oversee the wider Gardening Project.
Engagement in Gardening
Prior to Covid-19 there were 62 people attending Wantage Market Garden on a regular basis; 40 people attending weekly or more frequently. We were also running an annual wellbeing event at the Wantage Market Garden so that people we support could take part in relaxing activities such as yoga, dance and meditation.
In 2019, a partnership with local company Element 6 enabled us to purchase VegTrugs for our supported living households, community hubs and the Wantage Market Garden. This increased participation in gardening across Style Acre, with 87 people engaged with gardening in one of these settings.
Despite needing to focus on supporting people’s primary care through Covid-19 and despite the challenges we have faced, we have been determined to continue supporting both the physical and mental wellbeing of the people we support. We believe that gardening plays a very large part in keeping people we support healthy and happy. As for many, gardening has become even more important for the people we support during this time as a therapeutic and positive activity for people to undertake. People’s gardens have been used even more during lockdown.
Our Gardening Coordinator, volunteers and support teams continue to support people safely in small groups and 1-2-1 at the Wantage Market Garden. We are also encouraging people to take part in our gardening competitions and wellbeing activities to further benefit from gardening at home.
If you would like to learn more about our Gardening Project or would like to get involved through one of our opportunities below, please contact us.
1. Funding the Gardening Project
Our Gardening Project is dependent on voluntary income. Each year, we fundraise to cover the costs of employing our part-time Gardening Coordinator as well as materials for the project. This costs between £22,000 and £23,000 annually.
The Gardening Coordinator post is highly valued at Style Acre. Our Gardening Coordinator enables the people we support to gain access to creative and fun gardening activities so they can improve their mental and physical health. Our Gardening Coordinator helps people to develop new skills and gain work experience through the Gardening ASDAN course. She also runs our Green Acre social enterprise – a gardening maintenance business where the people we support can gain paid and voluntary work.
We are grateful to the organisations who have supported our Gardening Project with grants and donations. This includes local companies, Trusts & Foundations.
2. Regular Volunteering and Corporate Volunteer Groups
The garden has 10-15 regular volunteers. We also regularly welcome corporate volunteer groups for volunteering team days.
We are extremely grateful to our gardening team of volunteers, without whom the garden would not exist. Corporate groups who have attended the garden include employees from NatWest, Nationwide, PepsiCo, Vodafone, Lloyds, Lombard, Vertex and Amey. They have all donated hundreds of hours of support, enabling us to keep up with maintenance, build a shed, create paths, compost and make raised beds for our wheelchair users. We are always on the look-out for additional volunteers.
3. The Wider Community
Working alongside Sustainable Wantage at Wantage Market Garden has been a positive partnership. The volunteer group organises courses with various organisations, including Incredible Edible Oxford, to encourage gardening in the local community. A local Brownie pack has earned their gardening badge by growing seeds, planting out and harvesting at the garden. Together we organise quarterly plant sales at the garden, which are always popular with the local community. We are always looking for new opportunities to work and engage with the local community.
If you would like to be involved, please get in touch.