Leicestershire Master Gardeners is run by the national charity Garden Organic and funded by Leicestershire County Council Public Health. The programme started in 2014 and since then its volunteers have dedicated more than 4,200 hours of their time to giving free food growing advice and support to local people.
This thriving volunteer network now needs to recruit new Master Gardeners in Blaby, Hinckley & Bosworth, Melton and North West Leicestershire. The successful applicants will be invited to attend a free induction course on Saturday 12 May and Sunday 13 May.
Coordinator Alison McGrath says: “The volunteers only need two years of food growing experience, because they’ll be teaching complete beginners. They just need to be a step ahead. What we’re looking for mainly is a real passion for gardening. If they can inspire people with their enthusiasm for growing food then that’s perfect.”
People learning how to grow food through the Master Gardener programme gain many physical, emotional and social benefits. A recent study revealed that 40 per cent of them say their physical health has improved, and 67 per cent have a greater sense of purpose since getting involved. Importantly, 53 per cent of these growers also feel closer to the people in their local area.
Our Master Gardeners help a wide range of people in Leicestershire to grow their own organic food. These include schoolchildren, university students, people with physical disabilities or learning difficulties, groups with mental health problems, asylum seekers, elderly residents in sheltered housing, and those facing food poverty or social isolation.
Alison says: “I think our volunteers gain a real sense of satisfaction from making a difference in their communities. They really enjoy sharing their knowledge and learn an awful lot from the people they are supporting too. It’s a two-way process.”
The 3 Close Tenants’ Residents’ Association in Loughborough is an excellent example of what can be achieved. Their housing estate had become notorious for its anti-social behaviour and rundown environment. Members of the group wanted to tackle these problems and started by growing flowers in planters, which made a big improvement.
However, they really need to get younger people involved, so Master Gardener Helen Burgess offered to help recruit them and show them how to grow their own food. The 3 Close Tenants’ Garden Gang, as it has become known, is a real success. People of all ages take part, including young offenders on probation, and together they grow food for the whole community. They have even won an RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood Award.
Josie Falcolner, Chair of the Residents’ Association, says: “I think we’re a lot more confident now because we know there’s somebody there now we can fall back on. We can say ‘Helen, what would you advise there?’ We’re going to carry on doing the flowers because we like them, but now we’re more interested in growing stuff we can eat.”
If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener email our Coordinator, Alison McGrath at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Alison on 07584 343847.