INGREDIENTS don’t come much fresher for a Hepscott cafe.
For much of the produce used at the Hepscott Park Garden Cafe comes from the Horticultural Skills Unit (HSU) next door.
The unit, which is managed by Northumberland County Council, provides work experience in horticulture for up to 50 adults with learning disabilities.
They grow a variety of herbs and vegetables throughout the year, with tomatoes, lettuces, cabbages and beetroot among the produce brought on from seedlings or cuttings.
And when the time comes for them to be eaten, the service users have just a short walk to the cafe, taking produce harvested that day for use in its kitchen.
Service Manager Clive Moon said: “Hepscott Park HSU has a unique business offering. Unlike many garden centres all the plants that we sell to the general public are all grown on site by local adults with learning disabilities.
“Most of the ingredients we supply to the cafe, such as cabbages, lettuces and tomatoes, start life in the potting shed, where they are pricked out as seedlings by our service users.
“Once they’ve been left to develop in polytunnels we move them into a small allotment area.
“We speak with the cafe on a daily basis. This helps us to know what ingredients it is looking to use in the future, giving us enough time to start planting for the season ahead.”
The cafe also uses produce from the larger scale HSU at Sleekburn. Money raised from the venture is reinvested in the units.
Hepscott Park also has produce and plants on sale to the public.