Unique chance to learn how to grow fruit and veg at Growing Well

A SOUTH Lakes fruit and veg farm and mental health charity is offering the chance to gain a nationally recognised horticulture qualification in 2020 in its unique environment.

Growing Well helps its volunteers recover from mental health problems through activity, support and training at its six-acre organic site at Low Sizergh Farm.

One of its training courses open to the public as well as its volunteers is its City & Guilds Level 2 Work Based Diploma in Production Horticulture.

The one-year course, starting in January, covers all practical aspects of growing fruit and veg on a small commercial scale, organic and non-organic, with sessions at Growing Well and visits to other sites. Theory lessons in Growing Well’s classroom yurt cover subjects such as seed propagation, identification of pests and diseases, planting and establishing crops, monitoring the health of plants, vegetative propagation and plant nomenclature.

 “Our practically focussed Level 2 qualification is a great way of backing up your own gardening knowledge or interest,” says Growing Well training manager Hazel Sharples.

“Or it’s a great starting point for employment or a change of career into landscaping or nurseries, to start your own business, or move on to a Level 3 horticulture course at colleges such as Newton Rigg or Myerscough.”

The course runs for 35 weeks, every Tuesday from January 14 to early November, with breaks during school holidays. There are no exams. Students build up a portfolio of evidence including observations of practical tasks, photos, worksheets and completed knowledge questions.

The mix of Growing Well volunteers and external students in a small group of up to 12 makes for a unique environment and study group, and provides a real insight into the charity’s work, says Hazel.

“For our external students they get more than just a qualification. They become part of the community of Growing Well, some of whom stay and help support our work with our volunteers.”

One of this year’s students, Julie from Kendal, said of the course: “It’s so much fun. I can’t explain the excitement of harvesting a carrot and eating it. It is lovely to meet people who are interested in horticulture and be part of a team producing food which can be eaten. You build a portfolio as you go along so you don’t realise you’re on a course and that it’s going to end.”

Another student, Ruth, said: “It’s interesting, enjoyable and relaxed, with a good balance of theory and practical. I’ve enjoyed having the company of people with similar interests from different backgrounds. The ambience on the site is very calming.”

Hazel has 35 years’ experience in horticulture, and was a tutor at Accrington and Rossendale College before moving to Growing Well 12 years ago. Tutor Sarah McCormack has taught at Growing Well for two years and has worked in public and private gardens for the last 11 years.

No special qualifications are required to access the course other than an interest in horticulture. Basic horticultural skills and knowledge is helpful but not essential and a reasonable level of numeracy and literacy is preferable.

Course fees are £950, or may be free to individuals who are unemployed, low waged, or aged 19-23 if their highest prior attainment is less than Level 2. To book your place or for more information email hazel@growingwell.co.uk or call Growing Well on 07903 013648.

Growing Well is an accredited training centre as part of Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills programme. For full details of all courses available to adults go to www.cumbria.gov.uk/learningandskills/

Why people love studying horticulture at Growing Well

“It’s so much fun. I can’t explain the excitement of harvesting a carrot and eating it. It is lovely to meet people who are interested in horticulture and be part of a team producing food which can be eaten. The course is a mixture of theory and practical training. You build a portfolio as you go along so you don’t realise you’re on a course and that it’s going to end.” Julie, Kendal

“I’m building on a new passion that will hopefully led on to a university degree and paid work. Being able to get a formal qualification while doing plenty of practical work makes it far more useful than one without any practical work.” Patric

“It’s interesting, enjoyable and relaxed, with a good balance of theory and practical. I’ve enjoyed having the company of people with similar interests from different backgrounds. The ambience on the site is very calming.” Ruth

“The tutors are great, with good practical experience to share. It’s great to be able to do the practical tasks and gain work experience in a commercial growing environment. Nicki, Lindale

“Anybody with a keen interest in horticulture would learn a great deal on this course and have fun doing so. It’s more specific and more practical than other courses. I’ve made friendships and have a broader understanding of horticulture.” Marianne

“I have done other courses but this one is great as it’s practical as well as theory. It’s great to be a small group learning together. Not only have I learned a lot about horticulture but also my confidence has improved.” Iona