Season's Greetings from Garden OrganicPosted Monday 12th December 2011
A snowy scene at Ryton Gardens by Garden Organic's, Helen Lockwood
Dear members, supporters and partners,
When I wrote our Christmas letter last year we were beginning that phenomenal cold snap. This year I wonder what on earth the weather is doing; summer in April, April showers in August, and spring again in autumn, but Ryton Gardens has been resilient and splendid as always.
It’s been another exciting year for Garden Organic where we’ve made new friends and influenced ideas and behaviours. We began the year with a focus on engaging the gardening industry, opening a dialogue on how to articulate ‘sustainability’ throughout the gardening supply chain, from consumers to retailers, suppliers and producers. Holding a three day conference in May, senior representatives from Government, industry and the public sector all came together at Ryton Gardens to debate this serious issue. Our keynote speaker was sustainability guru, Dr Alan Knight, who a week later was appointed to lead on the Government’s Peat Taskforce: a thorny issue for the horticultural sector but one that we stood firm on with the launch of our I Don’t Dig Peat campaign.
It is thanks to our Organic Gardening Guidelines that we have been able to engage with new partners and audiences. Recognising the principles and values we hold dear, we want to work with people on a realistic journey as they look to make their practices more sustainable. In the last year, we have been pleased with how we have helped improve the organic sector’s relationship with the gardening industry.
Another area of work that Garden Organic is rightly proud is the chairing and leading of the Defra supported Food Growing in Schools Taskforce. Launched by the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman MP, the Taskforce brings together experts from Government, the corporate sector, and voluntary organisations to determine the benefits of food growing in schools, the barriers and key recommendations for how to embed this valuable activity. We have been fortunate in the breadth and range of expertise represented on the Taskforce with input from over 150 different organisations and 1,500 schools. We are now at the stage of preparing the final report and planning a launch of the findings next spring.
It isn’t just at a national level that we have been making our mark, our delivery of key projects like the Food for Life Partnership and our Master Composter and Master Gardener schemes (pictured) reach out and truly help to transform lives in communities. The Heritage Seed Library, and our work this year in creating local seed saving ‘hubs’, is also gaining recognition as an activity that delivers on safeguarding biodiversity and raising environmental awareness. We have exciting plans to take these and other innovative programmes out further next year.
Times continue to be tough but we are indebted to our members and supporters who continue to invest in our work. Within this we include our Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales, who personally hosted a summer reception for us at his Highgrove estate. This was a wonderful event where 150 key friends and prospective supporters were able to hear about our work first-hand from our Vice President, Raymond Blanc, as well as Eunice McGhie-Belgrave, a volunteer from our Sowing New Seeds project. It was a memorable evening and an important one for our fundraising too!
2012 is going to be an important year for Garden Organic. In times of economic hardship we must strive to ensure that our work has genuine impact and relevance. We know, from independent research, the value of the work we do in supporting health and well-being and improving key life skills and learning. However in an uncertain policy, social and economic landscape we also know that we must really focus our efforts for the future. I am confident, with the support of our friends, colleagues and members that we will be able to continue to achieve great things.
On behalf of us all at Garden Organic, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.