Alison McGrath, Master Gardener

Alison first became involved with Garden Organic as a volunteer Master Gardener, supporting people with organic food growing within her local area. Alison stumbled upon the volunteering opportunity at a difficult point in her life. She had a bad experience in the NHS, followed by postgraduate study in a field with no funding for further research and her confidence and sense of direction had taken a battering.

Volunteering as a Master Gardener gave me a whole new sense of purpose and direction.

“I could use my professional skills to teach and support others, combining these ‘people skills’ with a long-term fascination for growing and cooking, and a political drive to make really good food available to everyone. It gave me a place in a whole new circle of like-minded people. I enjoyed both my training and supporting new growers so much that I sometimes felt rather a fraud. I felt I was getting back so much that I couldn’t balance it with what I contributed.”

Whilst still involved as a Master Gardener, some years later Alison decided to up her volunteering by supporting us in an additional role - this time within our head office at Ryton Organic Gardens as a Volunteer Administrator. Alison came into the office twice a week and helped with a wide range of activities, including recruiting new volunteers, setting up a volunteer database and helping to manage our volunteer records.

However, just two months into this role, a paid vacancy for a Master Gardener Co-ordinator within Leicestershire – Alison’s local area – became available. Alison duly applied and was successful in securing the role.

“It seemed too good to be true.” She commented. “It was another big leap into the unknown, but my volunteering experience had given me enough courage to take the chance. Now I’m the one on the phone listening to new recruits say, “I saw the Master Gardeners’ advert and it’s just what I’ve been looking for!””