Accessible allotment group embarks on a new venture

Green-fingered adults with learning disabilities are digging their way to success – with the fruit and vegetables they grow set to be sold by a business.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 06 May, 2019, 15:00
Two of the Happy Diggers members with Hft volunteer Keith McLeod.

The four members of the Happy Diggers group are supported by national learning disability charity Hft at its day opportunities centre in Morpeth, where they grow seasonal produce on a large allotment.

Wheelchair accessible with raised beds, the large double plot has been in use by the charity since March 2015.

With the help of the Pegswood Allotment Society, a plot was prepared that included a shed, signage and plenty of space for growing.

The initiative was an instant success, with people supported by the charity relishing the fresh air and exercise, as well as having a new-found appreciation of where their food comes from.

After hearing about the scheme from customers supported by Hft, the owners of a local café suggested a partnership.

Delighted to accept, members of the gardening group are now hard at work growing an assortment of nutritious produce – ranging from raspberries to rhubarb to tomatoes.

Presuming everything goes ahead as planned, food containing the locally-grown ingredients should be available soon.

Andrew, a member of the Happy Diggers group, said: “I like the fresh air and exercise.

“I enjoy planting out and seeing the final product and we learn new things every week. It’s a friendly atmosphere.”

Hft offers person-centred learning disability services, ranging from residential care to supported employment, and supported living at home – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day.

Rita Love, day services manager, said: “The Happy Diggers take great pride in their work and have grown in confidence and developed new skills as a result.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie on the allotment, with other plot holders generously donating seeds and plants to help us get off the ground.

“We’re hoping they and other locals will enjoy the produce grown by the group.”