Garden Organic's Council of Trustees

Trustees are the individual members of Council, the governing body of Garden Organic. Our Council comprises up to 15 Trustees who collectively have ultimate responsibility for setting the strategy and direction for the charity, its governance and financial wellbeing.

We are now inviting applications for new Trustees to join our team. We are looking for people actively interested in organic horticulture and growing, especially those with any relevant skills in charity and financial management. All reasonable expenses are reimbursed.

Trustees are elected each year at our Annual General Meeting. We welcome enquiries from anyone who has the time, commitment and ability to work at a strategic level.

Being a trustee is a rewarding role and vital to the future success of the charity. If you are interested in how you could contribute, and would like to know more about being a Trustee, please download our Briefing Note for Potential Trustees here and Role Description here.

Our Current Trustees

Margaret Eyre – Chair

I am a registered nurse with varied experience of in-patient and community based health care in both the public and charitable sectors. Whilst working for the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care (MCCC), as a manager and researcher, I was privileged to be able to see the positive impact that horticultural therapy, or simply having contact with a garden, can have on the quality of life of patients and their caregivers. My work with MCCC provided me with a range of experiences including human resources: understanding of employment law; charity governance: working with volunteers and some fundraising. My career latterly led me to specialise in research projects and teaching research at university. I have now retired and would like to be able to use my skills to make a more pro-active contribution to the organic gardening community projects, and spend more time in my organic garden..

Dr Andrew Collins - Vice-Chair

One of my early memories as a child in London is of helping my grandfather to pick peas on his Southfields allotment. Twenty five years later, as a research scientist at Cambridge University Zoology Department, I used to cycle to and from my own allotment with spade and fork lashed to the crossbar. It was around that time that I visited Bocking, and came away with some comfrey plants whose progeny are still with me. From Cambridge I moved to a post in Aberdeen University and then to the Rowett Research Institute to work on human nutrition and disease – specifically the role of fruits and vegetables in protecting against cancer. Plant foods are well known to contain ‘micronutrients’ with antioxidant properties, such as vitamin C and carotenoids, and these are commonly thought to be responsible for their health-promoting properties. We demonstrated that these antioxidants do; indeed, decrease oxidative damage to DNA and other molecules in humans; but the micronutrients have many other effects on human metabolism that are likely to be more important. One of these effects that has particularly interested me is the ability to enhance the ability of cells to repair damaged DNA, probably contributing to the protection against cancer. (Whether ‘organic’ foods are more beneficial than conventionally grown foods is, I think, still an open question. It seems likely to me that plants grown under sub-optimal conditions, as in organic gardens, will contain interesting stress-related natural chemicals that both enhance their flavour and contribute to their beneficial effects. But this is just a hunch.) I have been continuing with this research for the past 11 years as Professor of Nutrition Biology in the University of Oslo. I am divorced, with three sons and three granddaughters. I live with my partner of 20 years, Maria, a green-fingered Slovak, in a house built on rock overlooking Oslofjord; we have scraped together enough earth to grow peas, beans, potatoes and squash in the long summer days, but have to contend with roe deer and brown Spanish slugs. I am now 50% retired, and spend more time back in Scotland, where – with help from family and friends – I am building a strawbale house just north of Aberdeen. I have always enjoyed the more experimental side of gardening, trying out ideas such as raised beds, seed saving, compost (including, in Norway, a composting toilet), grafting apple trees, and making fruit wines.

Keith Arrowsmith - Treasurer

I first heard of Garden Organic when I helped set up Hereford Seed Swap in 2007. Since then I’ve acquired a much deeper understanding of the natural environment and horticulture in particular. For 25 years I worked in accounting and treasury for Chevron in the UK and around the world. In 2005 I “retired” from Chevron to take up the new challenge of setting up and growing a small business. I established a wildflower business (PlantWild) – growing UK native plants & harvesting meadow seed. In the business partnership, I had specific responsibility for financial matters as well as propagating and growing plants. The business was successful then, after 12 years, time for new challenges and PlantWild was sold as a going concern. I have always wanted to learn more about sustainable land management, which I have done working as a volunteer in reserve management with Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and in my own 3-acre garden. I have kept my business/financial skills fresh as treasurer of Hereford Seed Swap and my local village hall (charity) - adding grant fundraising to my CV. I believe that my skills, interests and experience are suited to becoming Trustee/Treasurer of Garden Organic

Steve Howell

I am a qualified Chartered Accountant with over 40 years of experience in the accountancy profession. I spent my career with one of the top 4 international accountancy firms, initially in an audit department and then specialising in tax consultancy. Over the years, I have dealt with many varied and interesting clients, from multinational groups to owner-managed businesses, and, as a result, have gained an insight into many aspects of financial matters. I live in Warwickshire and am married with 4 grown up children and 2 grandchildren. Now retired, I am able to spend more time in the garden, which we are steadily creating out of the chaos we inherited when we bought our current property just over 3 years ago.

Adam Alexander

Adam has had a distinguished career as a producer of observational and narrative documentaries and is a skilled story-teller. He has produced television programmes about food, gardening and his long-form work has observed cultural life from Russia to Tibet, the Middle East, Africa and throughout Europe. With a Rudolph Steiner education Adam has been an organic grower from childhood. He ran a market garden in Devon in the late seventies but soon realized that growing for pleasure rather than as a living meant an easier life. His work as a film-maker has enabled him to travel the world and build a large library of rare, endangered, native and heirloom vegetables. Today, his work focuses on the conservation and preservation of the genetic diversity of edible crops, most specifically from regions of the world where conflict and the impact of changing farm practices is threatening the survival of local varieties. He is in demand as a speaker and gives lectures and talks, entertaining gardeners and food professionals about his work as a seed detective, his adventures in far-flung corners of the globe and the stories behind the seeds he has discovered. Adam has experience as a Trustee, having spent many years as on for the Charles Lord Denton Almshouses. He brings to Garden Organic a wealth of strategic expertise as a content creator and a proven track record in raising brand awareness and communications.

Marjan Bartlett-Freriks

From an early age I have had a keen interest in the environment we live in, which has continued through my student years into adulthood. A few years ago I joined Garden Organic as this combines my passion for gardening with my interest in health and sustainability.

I am originally from The Netherlands and came to the UK in 1992 to do an MSc in Food Science at Reading University. I am happily married and we live in North Herefordshire with our cat Florence. We recently moved just south of Ludlow and I am now trying to come to grips with my new garden of just under 2 acres and with converting it to an organic garden.

I am a Food Scientist with organisational skills in both Project and Programme Management, which I believe could be of use to the charity as well as my analytical and scientific mindset. These skills I am sure could be deployed in areas such as governance, defining goals and objectives as well as in the evaluation of performance against agreed targets. This is in fact what I was employed to do latterly as Food Safety Programme Manager at Weetabix Ltd. Having been lucky enough to give up full time employment in early 2016 I am keen to play an active part in a charity I passionately support and to use my skills to bring a positive contribution to the charity.

Amanda Sandford

Having been a member of Garden Organic for 30+ years I am now in a position to offer my time and skills to help the organisation at a strategic level. For most of my career I have worked for a health charity in a policy development role and have a good understanding of how charities are organised and managed. I also have considerable experience of press and public relations work, including parliamentary lobbying, which I believe could be of value to Garden Organic. I am a Trustee and Secretary of a sports club, which includes fundraising and managing grant applications. I have a particular interest in growing fruit and vegetables in urban spaces and am keen to encourage people, particularly from disadvantaged communities, to discover the health, environmental and economic benefits of growing food organically. As a volunteer at a local orchard project I have witnessed the joy that communal gardening can bring to participants. In addition to organic gardening, I have worked on a number of organic farms in Europe (through WWOOF) and have an interest in permaculture.

Liam Gaffney

I have been growing fruit and vegetables, mostly heritage varieties, to feed my family for 35yrs; and always in accord with organic principles. This philosophical approach was initially underpinned by my desire to not interfere with the natural order; but has been strengthened by the growing body of evidence linking agrichemical usage in food production to ill-health in humans, with deleterious effects for ecology and biodiversity. I am passionate about this subject, and my desire to make a difference led to me becoming a long-time supporter of Garden Organic, and member of the Heritage Seed Library, plus supporter of your sister organisation, The Irish Seed Savers Association. I was a registered nurse by profession, having worked with psychiatry, surgery and medicine, but predominately within intensive care (IC); latterly as the manager of a large IC unit in Scotland, with responsibility for the delivery of safe, high quality care. This necessitated standard-setting, clinical governance, staff management and development, and financial control of a million-pound budget. Most recently, I managed clinical governance within the health service on an organisation-wide basis. I have since retired from paid employment, and believe that I have the necessary time and skills to commit positively to Garden Organic – to work collaboratively with its senior management team, so as to influence its strategic direction towards achieving a world where organic growing is the norm.

Emma Sayer

I stood for nomination as a trustee of Garden Organic because I believe that gardeners across the UK can make a real difference in improving the environment and enhancing biodiversity. I would bring unique perspectives to the board on two fronts: First, as Reader in Ecosystem Ecology at Lancaster University, I have a strong scientific background on many aspects related to organic gardening (e.g. composting, soil fertility and soil health). I believe Garden Organic would benefit from my research network and my ability to analyse situations and find solutions where others see barriers. Second, I am passionate about bringing people together and seeking dialogue around environmental issues. I have led several highly successful public engagement events, for example at Glastonbury Festival and the BBC Good Food Festival. I particularly enjoy creating activities and exhibits to engage broad audiences and I also provide public engagement training. In sum, I believe I have much to offer as a member of the board of trustees for Garden Organic and, having previously served as a Trustee for the British Ecological Society (BES), I am familiar with the duties and responsibilities associated with such a role.

David Robinson

Having had a long standing interest in the natural world I studied Biology at Liverpool University, graduating from the UK’s first Environmental Biology degree course when it was introduced just in time for my final year. Environmental jobs were few and far between at that time and I joined the accounts team of the UK arm of a large American life assurance company, switching after a year to their marketing division. In my mid-twenties, having taken two years out travelling and working on farms in Australia and New Zealand I returned to the UK and joined a company offering trading services to UK charities. Having progressed to become marketing director I was involved with organising trading campaigns on behalf of most of the UK’s leading charities including the National Trust, Cancer Research UK, BHF, RSPB, NSPCC etc etc. During this time I had a 2 year secondment to the Australian arm of the business working with Australian charities, subsequently returning (now with a Welsh wife) to the UK business. In 2011, I joined Suttons Seeds as marketing director and in 2014 a colleague and I organised a management buyout of the business from our French owners, Limagrain at which point I became Managing Director. We took on a business making substantial losses and returned it to profit, whilst also acquiring a number of other horticulture and direct marketing related businesses. One of these, The Organic Gardening Catalogue, was at that time was being run at a loss by Chase Organics. As part of the Suttons Group, the OGC was returned to profit whilst continuing to make donations and trading contributions to the trading arm of Garden Organic. During my tenure the plant growing team, with the assistance of Garden Organic, successfully switched Sutton's own plant production to be 100% peat free and grown according to organic principles. We sold the Suttons Group in 2020 although retaining a limited number of the assets including the National Bee Supplies business based in Okehampton Devon, which had been acquired 3 years previously. This year we expect the business to be operated on a carbon negative basis. Having retired from Suttons I am now able to concentrate on planting trees, digging ponds and converting 10 acres of ‘improved' pasture to wildlife meadow. I am currently planning my new vegetable garden including a large, experimental, earth-sheltered greenhouse.