My Story Part 3
By now, a member of the World Wildlife Fund, Garden Organic and the Soil Association, my belief in sustainable living and interest in organic gardening principles were no secret to those who knew me and in 2009 I was approached by North Kent College and asked to teach green gardening to residents of Gravesham Council. I was terrified at the prospect of teaching adults. I didn’t even hold a teaching certificate, they were going to eat me alive! The opportunity to share my passion and encourage others to garden organically was way too great a pull to allow my nerves to get in the way and so it was with great enthusiasm and trepidation that I agreed. Although no one ate me during those first meetings, I don’t mind telling you that having people fall asleep on you does nothing for your self-confidence! I quickly realised that these people were here because they liked gardening, not sitting in a hot stuffy classroom being talked at for two hours straight. And frankly, I found the lack of interaction dissatisfactory too. I wanted to take the class outside and with the amazing support of council staff, during its lifetime, Gravesham Greenfingers acquired allotment plots at two sites and the use of a poly tunnel during the colder months. This hands-on approach to teaching meant that people felt invested in their learning and friendships developed.
The downside to this was that many people returned year after year and as much as I was thrilled to see them again, I seriously had my work cut out coming up with new growing ideas each season. Straw bale gardening and instruction on how to make plant food from human urine were probably the most unconventional and least successful examples we trialled. We ran for six years and during that time I had completed an A level in biology, RHS Level 2 in Practical Horticulture and become one of GardenOrganic’s Medway Master Gardeners!
Regardless of whether my motivation to take the courses was to ease the Imposter Syndrome I sometimes felt or for pure pleasure, by constantly being a pupil I became better equipped to understand the different ways in which people learn and maintain my energy and access to new ideas and theories. As a Master Gardener, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many workshops on topics as varied as Container Growing with Mark Ridsdill, Growing Exotic Vegetables with Anton Rosenfeld and Permaculture with Jo Barker.
So, where does Gingerfields fit into all of this? I hear you say. Well, it was during this period of teaching and consulting with government-funded projects that I witnessed how a student’s ability to engage in growing could become limited by the suitability of the facilities on offer. Many would become overwhelmed and quickly disillusioned by any additional challenges, be it a bramble infested allotment or a lack of toilet and tea making facilities. As a consequence, those that continued to attend classes did not always sustain their interest beyond the classroom.
Faced with this challenge and already being in the market to buy a piece of land, I started to develop a wish list for the perfect teaching space. A place where you weren’t caught short, dying of thirst, beaten up by the weather, bones broken by dodgy paths or attacked by nettles and thorns. Gingerfields is the utopia I would have liked to have been able to pull out of a Mary Poppins bag for each and every student I ever had the privilege to teach, the die hards.
But Gingerfields isn’t the finished article. I’m yet to acquire a Kew Gardens-style glasshouse or any glasshouse, for that matter. But the kitchen garden is young enough for the more adventurous of you to have the space to develop growing ideas and established enough to educate, inspire and motivate those of you new to growing your own. Nothing is static in life and I believe that learning is an ongoing journey for all those wishing to find inspiration and keep an open mind. I continue to attend workshops, courses and talks of interest and look forward to developing Gingerfields into not only a haven for wildlife but for gardeners, crafters and artists alike.
Welcome to the Gingerfields Community.