Eric Barnes, Horticultural Therapy

Volunteers' week

In March 2015 Garden Organic volunteer, Eric Barnes, was crowned the Great British Growing Awards ‘Volunteer of the Year’.

Eric is a familiar face at Ryton Organic Gardens, having worked here since the day it first opened in 1986. As well as his paid employment, Eric has volunteered with Garden Organic’s social and therapeutic horticulture project, Growth, since it started over a decade ago.

Marc Hammond, Head Gardener at Ryton Organic Gardens, nominated Eric for the national award for his hard work and dedication. “Eric is a real friend and inspiration to those involved with Growth.” Commented Marc. “He’s so dedicated that recently, on release from a week’s stay in hospital, he visited Garden Organic to see the Growth team before her returned home!”

The Volunteer of the Year award was judged by James Wong. “It was both the length of service and commitment in the face of adversity that made the winner stand out.” Commented James. “What a hero!”

Ever humble, Eric said: “It’s is an honour to be selected for this award, but I still can’t comprehend that there isn’t anyone else more worthy of it.

I’ve been involved in horticultural therapy for a long time now and I still get a buzz out of it. All of the people in our group have been coming here for years, so you get to know them really well. We’re just a team. I get as much out of it as they do – gardening is therapeutic for all of us.