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Growing a better tomorrow, with UHI


July 9, 2021 By Adelle Horler
UHI partnership

It was a year in the making and our very first sustainable food production course has now completed in Cullerne Gardens, the seven acres of land next to The Park here at Findhorn, which grows much of our food.

The month-long course, in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands Moray College, was aimed at young, unemployed adults from the local area, teaching them not only more sustainable methods of food production, but also entrepreneurial skills so they could create their own businesses. The hands-on course combined classroom-based learning at Moray College with practical outdoor lessons at Cullerne Gardens.

All participants had been unemployed for more than 13 weeks and genuinely wanted to do something to get back into work. Some of them mentioned that, before the course started, they experienced feelings of isolation, lack of confidence and hopelessness due to the challenges over the last 18 months. When we talked to them, many mentioned how much the group experience, new friendships, the hands-on work in Cullerne Gardens, the knowledge they gathered and the certificate they received at the end changed their outlook on life. It gave them the kick they needed to feel empowered and confident to go out into the world again and find a job.

Here is what the students had to say about the course:

It is like a different world. I am feeling peaceful and happy. Loving the course. All the people are so friendly to you. Even the people on the course I call them all friends. We never knew each other before we went on the course. The only downside of the course is that it is too short. I would recommend it to anyone right now. I can’t thank them enough.

 

I feel more confident and have a new spring in my step. Four months ago I felt anxiety and depression. Now I feel turned around 180 degrees. I will make sure I’ll keep it going and to get back here to Cullerne Garden again. My habits have changed. I was used to quick meals, but now I am eating greens. I am cooking meals from the start. Even my habits have changed for the better. I am more appreciative of things. I feel just happy. I am in a content place. A happy place in my life, which I never felt in the last so many years.

 

If I feel things are getting to me I just do deep breathing, sitting in the living room, or going for a walk. That is what this place has taught me. So that’s what I am saying, I can not thank everyone enough.

 

— Stewart Mackenzie

 

 

I knew about this place when I was a kid, but it was forgotten. With what’s going on in the world, I was worried about food shortages. I was already into organic produce, so I thought I’d get the garden going. I decided to read some books. I had just got the books and this course came onto my lap. I just thought to myself that this was too weird timing. I thought it was just to learn about gardening, but this has given me so much more. There are a few people I’m going to speak to after this of the people that are here. Here I have been able to make friends, real ones.

 

The place is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I feel like it was a sign to do this and not just for the gardening. I want to learn more. I would definitely like to come back to do some volunteering.

 

This course went too fast! I kind of want to do the next one. I want to absorb more.

 

— Katherine Melia

 

 

It’s just been four weeks and yet four years wouldn’t be enough, because there’s so much to learn about growing. I’ve loved so many bits of it. It’s just been a joy. A whole day in the garden is just a joy to the soul. You couldn’t have put a more diverse group of people together It’s been just really easy and fun the way it’s been held.

 

It’s not top down teaching. It’s sharing, sharing knowledge, and I think that is the future. Everyone here does actually have knowledge and it’s great not to be talked at. The whole approach of sharing has been really helpful. It’s given everyone a real boost in their confidence and self-esteem. And the weather’s been glorious. I’d love it to be a longer course. We’re all totally inspired.

 

— Lois MacDonald

 

 

The gardens gave me this sense of peace, calmness and relaxation that I miss in my life. I am very happy with all the things I’ve learned here. All the different methods like no digging. It is a more natural thing, right? And how important the compost is, the soil and the nutrients. It has been very interesting. Now I feel the option of growing organic vegetables for the local area in Moray and not eating organic vegetables grown far away.

 

— Cristina Lopez

 

 

It has been a great combination of learning lots of new things and putting our knowledge into the practice. It’s been great being outside every single day. I really like the balance of how much knowledge we’re being given and how much we are getting to do the practical side. It’s been the perfect balance. Every day has been a mixture of the two.

 

— Zac Shohet

 

 

 

Here’s a video about how it all came into being, with Andrea Marcus, Education Steward, Jewels Kinnair, focaliser of Cullerne, and Tara Gibsone, Partnerships Project Lead.