Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - 11:42

People and Gardens, working closely with the Eden Project, is growing lots more vegetables and fruit and producing new jobs and opportunities in the process.
Later this month the group, run as a day care centre at Eden's Watering Lane Nursery near Pentewan, Cornwall, will throw open its doors to show the public the valuable work it does for people whose lives have been affected by mental and physical challenges ranging from autism to Down's syndrome.
Visiting days take place on Tuesday May 19 and Wednesday May 20 and coincide with the launch of a new veg box pilot project. The boxes will initially be for sale to Eden employees but the plan is that they will soon be on sale to the general public.
People and Gardens was established ten years ago by Ken Radford and in that time he and his team have helped more than 150 people make real improvements in their lives through learning horticultural skills and growing food for the Eden eating places. Some of the participants go on to live independently, to study and to find jobs.
There are currently 45 people taking part in the group, all coming from a 25 mile radius of the nursery and with an age range of 16-70. The launch of the veg box scheme will see two new part-time jobs created.
Ken Radford said: "These are exciting times for our project and we want to show everyone what we can do. We do the full cycle here - sowing seeds, potting on, planting and harvesting. A whole new field has been prepared by hand here at Watering Lane.
“We are also expanding within the main greenhouse and have two big polytunnels. We have planted a big potato crop, squashes, courgettes, onions, broad beans, parsley, leeks, carrots and lots of other veg for the boxes and for the Eden tables. The boxes, to be sold at £10 a time, are to be delivered every Friday with fresh seasonal and varied vegetables.
"We're calling it the Quality of Life Project because we are providing quality food and improving the lives of all the volunteers who take part in the planting and growing.
"We are creating these new jobs for people with learning disabilities. We are enabling people to take control of their own lives - something the Government wants us to do, all the more relevant in these times of insecurity and people losing their jobs. The expansion of the project is going to enable more opportunities for people to develop in a real working environment and we are hoping that if the boxes are a success those jobs will multiply very quickly."
People and Gardens was initially based at the Lost Gardens of Heligan before moving to Watering Lane, where participants work closely with Eden's own skilled horticulturists.
Ken, who has himself suffered from bouts of depression, said: "The group is now very well established and we get really good support from Eden. Mine is an unbelievable job. I get so much pleasure and pride out of it and they are a great bunch of people to work with. They get so much out of their work and the friendships they make here.
"We have a motto here which says 'It's not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.' And the benefits are for the staff as well as the group. There are very few people who go to bed every night looking forward to tomorrow, but I'm one of them."
Alistair Griffiths, Eden's science curator, said: "There is a lovely fit between Eden as an educational charity and People and Gardens with its hands-on approach to helping lots of people. They have done great work preparing a previously unused field and planting a fine variety of produce.
“The veg box scheme is a super idea and we are confident it will do well. It is exciting to think that visitors to Eden and the staff will be enjoying even more of the first-class produce which Ken and his team are producing here."
The visiting days on May 19 and 20 are in three sessions open both days - 10am to 12pm, 1pm to 3pm and 4.30pm to 6 pm.
Those who would like to attend should contact Ken Radford on