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You are here: Home » News » St John of God Horticultural Young Co-operative



St John of God Horticultural Young Co-operative

Young Co-operators planting an orchard

Watford Community Garden, an Alternative Education Provider, has formed a partnership with The Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God which owns and runs the St John of God Horticultural Training Centre at Digswell Nurseries in Welwyn Garden City. Young Co-operatives Co-ordinator Peter Lowe explains:

Watford Community Garden are Alternative Education Providers and we have formed a partnership with The Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God which owns and runs the St John of God Horticultural Training Centre at Digswell Nurseries in Welwyn Garden City.

Through a lot of hard work and by completing a vigorous series of tests, checks and balances we have been successful in getting the St John of God Horticultural Training Centre registered with City and Guilds.

A Young Co-operator planting an orchard

Registering our centre with City and Guilds has allowed us to refocus our education provision onto Horticultural Enterprise Education in line with LANTRA's Research Paper which indicates some 60,000 positions becoming available within the next 10 years with 'an extremely high level of vacancies that are hard to fill' . This work is essential for International, National and Local Food Security and for carbon reduction. It is our intention that some of this local food growing work will be carried out by Social Enterprises, particularly Young Co-operatives.

A Young Co-operator planting an orchard

With land prices so high (especially in areas in and around London) how can we possibly start local food growing co-operatives? Well, we need to start at school, many schools in Hertfordshire have managed to retain their green space and luckily we have a County Council that values Alternative Education Provision. We also have more than our fair share of both horticultural heritage and entrepreneurial spirit; it just needs reawakening and applying to food production.

Young Co-operators planting an orchard

Our new Horticultural Training Centre gives us the room, facilities and expertise to teach our Young Co-operators how to grow their own food. The co-operatives will then be able to market their own produce and swap food for other food and purchase vegetable seedlings using the Community Food Hub, with fresh co-operatives carrying out garden maintenance in exchange for a place to grow their own fresh fruit and vegetables using Landshare. They can also use this experience to gain industry recognised qualifications.

Landshare is a collaboration between Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Channel 4 ‘which connects those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food'. Once our co-operatives are equipped with both the horticultural knowledge and the co-operative entrepreneurial skills to grow and market their own food this project could literally grow and grow.

Westfield Community Technology College garden plan

We won our first contract for supplying young vegetable plants from Westfield Community and Technology College (Watford) who are building 15 (3m x 1.5m) beds in their school grounds to set up their own Young Co-operative Social Enterprise.