Ready Steady Grow was first set up in primary schools in Holyhead, Llangefni and Amlwch in 2010, the brainchild of the Environmental Team Manager and Co-Ordinator of Plas Cybi Partnership – a Communities First Group based in Holyhead. Through this most valuable of projects the young people who take part are inspired to look at ways of improving their own and their families’ health and wellbeing and that of the community. They are also learning transferable skills that can be passed on for generations to come. The idea was to have allotments in each school we are involved with, encourage more schools to become involved and teach the children the value of gardening to grow, not only flowers, but also their own fruit and vegetables.
We now have thirteen schools with allotments and engage with over 300 children! We also try to make the program as inclusive as possible, involving children’s siblings, parents and grandparents. Having seen what we were doing and following a presentation to the Director of Education by our Project Leader, Hayley Martin, the local authority Education Department made the decision to buy into the project. Each week Hayley visits each school to mentor the children and show them how to carry out routine maintenance in the allotment gardens and polytunnels, from sowing seeds, thinning out plants and housekeeping, to helping them discover the fun and benefits in growing their own food. Along the way the children have also learned the great advantages of recycling and composting.
The program has also expanded to include fruit trees sourced locally from Ian Sturrock who specialises in apple trees and voluntarily goes to schools to teach about his area of expertise. One of the schools in which the program runs is a special needs school and it is particularly rewarding for us to see the pleasure on the faces of these children when they plant their various seeds, are taught to nurture them, and above all the excitement and interest on their faces when they are able to harvest and use their own produce.
Each school involved has files, set up by Hayley, that include a Work Plan for the whole year, some of which is in line with the national curriculum. These include planting plans for each raised bed and polytunnel, and worksheets for each vegetable, flower and plant. Hayley has also introduced another fun factor to the program – organising a Ready Steady Grow Awards Ceremony for all schools and arranging a competition rewarding the best produce. As part of the project it is not unusual for the children to clean and cook the food in their school, as well as selling to parents and school staff. Sometimes they are assisted to cook a variety of veg and take samples around the classrooms for other children to try. Any income from the sale of produce goes back into sustainability of their allotment in the purchase of seeds, tools and equipment.
One of nicest knock on effects of this project is that some of the children have been seen out shopping for seeds, excited to be taking them home and putting to good use what they have learned from Ready Steady Grow, passing the knowledge onto their families and encouraging healthy eating for the whole family.
We, along with our Chairman, are very proud of this project and believe that the scheme, which has won several awards, not least recognition in the Royal Horticulture Society Britain in Bloom 2011, should be in every school in the whole of Wales.
About the authors: Lynne Murphy – Environmental Admin, Hayley Martin – Project Leader,Colin Lyon- Environmental Team Leader , Jim Lee – Chairman, Rita Lyon -Co-Ordinator for Plas Cybi Partnership and Alun Roberts – Development Officer.