An interview with Stanmer Community Gardening Group

Following on from our showcase last year on community gardening projects across the UK, we have conducted an interview with Jeanne from Stanmer Community Gardening Group on the current projects they are running. They are a fantastic group of people and their project is extremely valuable to the community, so we are delighted to have been able to speak to Jeanne about it.

The interview

How would you describe your project and what you do?

Stanmer Community Garden Group is a gardening group for vulnerable adults.  It is run by volunteers for volunteers, in a mutually supportive group. Growing food for ourselves and to sell to a local veg box scheme; A Share of the Crop, we fund ourselves and buy everything we need.  We invite our volunteers to give us ideas to improve and promote the group, so by these means, we now have a website, a Facebook page, days out and treats in. We've become more diverse in gardening ideas and practises, welcoming everyone, of all abilities, to work with and enjoy growing in the countryside.

What would you say are the key values for your project?

SCGG values people.  We value their feelings and opinions.  Our main objective is to provide a safe place where confidence can grow.  We've had some volunteers go off and get full-time jobs, but still come to volunteer with us because they value it and love being with us.

Your project focuses on working with vulnerable adults; how do you think this project can benefit their lives?

People who come to us may have some learning, mental health or physical difficulties, they may have none.  For whatever reason people come to us, we offer a safe and beautiful environment to help them grow, gain confidence and make friends.  We hope that they enjoy the fresh food we grow, but not all do and we won't force them to eat salad if they don't want it!  An apple will usually go down.  SCGG offer or provide outlets for training in gardening or First Aid and food related training.  We have offsite trips and give people some of their 'first ever' experiences, which is a joy to everyone.

Your project team is made up of volunteers and vulnerable adults, how do you think you work is benefitting the community around you?

SCGG volunteers are the communities around us and they come from a diverse range.  We've had people who don't have English as their first language but manage to enjoy being in the group, sometimes helping their language skills.  We have volunteers sent to us from other community groups, ie; companies who look after people with difficulties, the Unemployment Centre, The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, local businesses, schools, colleges and both Universities.  Charities and businesses including Care Management Group, Southdown Housing, Care Co-ops, Grace Eyre, Mind, and Millview also direct vulnerable adults our way.  Our volunteers come from all over Brighton and East Sussex, and sometimes West Sussex.  They all enjoy their time with us and come back year after year.

Do you have any plans for where you want to take it in the future?

I've been with the group for 7 years and running it as Stanmer Community Garden Group for 5.  We've seen a lot of change and now we've settled into a lovely, caring group.  We are slowly expanding and we continue to have large groups in, sometimes up to 60.  If we were to grow any larger, I don't think that it would benefit the regular service users we have, some who have difficulties with noise and lots of people.  Part of what we offer is peace and beauty that can't be found anywhere else in the City of Brighton and Hove.  Maintaining SCGG as it is the key goal for us and only volunteers make it worthwhile.

Learn more about the fantastic community gardening projects in the UK