Growing Enterprise at Ryton Organic Gardens

The Growing Enterprise project was established by Garden Organic at Ryton Organic Gardens in September 2013 as a practical way to support learning about organic gardening and sustainability issues, whilst also developing an understanding of enterprise. All of the young people, from local schools, colleges and pupil referral units, have additional learning support needs, with conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Social Emotional and Behavioural support needs (SEB), and/or a physical disability.

To date 391 students have benefitted from being involved in the project, with more than half of those attending for longer than 6 weeks allowing for real progression in their development and skills. They learn employability skills by producing items for sale to the public and contribute towards managing the budget, marketing and the sale of products.

Skills for life

Students develop social skills, build self-esteem and learn about running a small business while enjoying the gardens and learning about organic food growing. The young people are developing entrepreneurial skills in a real life context such as, working with others, creativity, problem solving, and effective listening. The work that some of the students complete during the sessions has also helped to support them in achieving a range of qualifications which they are working on with their school or college, such as OCN, City and Guilds and ASDAN courses.

Staff have commented on how beneficial the practical approach to learning has been with their young people,

Working with pupils who all have ASD, Ryton (Organic Gardens) has given them invaluable experiences across many aspects of social and personal skills. It has been an opportunity to do some team building and interacting with outsiders. These are both skills they will need for their future and can continue to build upon

Learning through nature

For some students, working with the Growing Enterprise Project is the only outdoor learning that they regularly access in the week. Being part of the project gives the students time to experience nature and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of open spaces and gardening. Many students have been able to access exciting and rewarding new learning experiences such as harvesting and eating the vegetables that they have grown, and enjoying the sensory nature of the gardens. “I didn’t know I liked peas until I ate one straight from the plant!” –student feedback. In addition to growing and selling their own organic vegetables and plants, projects have included wildlife gardening, seed saving, propagation from cuttings, lavender crafts, woodwork making bird boxes and bird feeders, pressed apple juice, elderflower cordial, and many other seasonal activities.

Learning environment and expertise

Students are taught on the project in small groups of up to 8, but often less, which ensures that individual needs can be addressed and barriers to learning broken down. They have the support of a qualified horticultural therapist and experienced volunteers. Many accompanying school staff have remarked on the relaxing atmosphere in the gardens and the calming influence that this has on the young people, not only during sessions, but also once they have returned to school. Working in the organic gardens is the ideal environment for the students to learn about healthy lifestyles in both physical exercise and sustainable food production.

Click here to read our case studies.

If you would like to know more about the Growing Enterprise Project, please contact