Thursday, November 26, 2009 - 11:53

Two people who have never been employed before now have paid jobs thanks to a vegetable bag scheme run by People and Gardens with the help of the Eden Project.

Based at Eden's Watering Lane Nursery, People and Gardens is a group of people whose lives have been affected by mental and physical challenges.

For the past six months the group has been growing a wide range of vegetables at the nursery and selling them in bags to Eden staff, Cornwall Council’s Adult Social Care department and the friends, family and carers of those working on the scheme.

The success of this has meant that James Kirwin and Darren Schmieden can now be given paid employment, growing the vegetables and packing the bags.

Currently the team is producing 75 bags every two weeks but there are plans to make them more widely available.

James and Darren have both been working with Ken Radford, who runs People and Gardens, for 12 years but this is the first time they have done paid work.

James said: “I really enjoy working on the vegetable bags and I find I’m eating a lot more healthy food now.”

Darren said: “Working here has really helped me develop my gardening skills and I’m enjoying growing vegetables for the bags.”

Ken Radford said: “We’re really pleased to be in a position to give James and Darren jobs. They’ve worked brilliantly over the years and can be proud of what the team has achieved with the vegetable bag scheme.

”People and Gardens is about changing the lives of people who, through no fault of their own, are disadvantaged. The project is based on the credibility of what our guys achieve and many of them have made great strides since we first met them.

“We’re about encouraging participation, presence, choice, competence and respect and hopefully we achieve these aims, as well as providing our customers with fresh, local vegetables every two weeks.”

The People and Gardens supported work project aims to enable participants - whose lives have been affected by mental and physical challenges ranging from autism to Down's syndrome - to play a greater role in their communities.

The ultimate aim of the group is to enable people to take control over their own lives and find employment. People and Gardens works closely and in partnership with the Eden Project and the vegetable bag scheme was started to create jobs, providing real work for real pay for some of the participants.

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 Eden’s restaurants and cafes. Some of the participants go on to live independently, to study and to find jobs.

The group was initially based at the Lost Gardens of Heligan before moving to Watering Lane, where participants work closely with Eden's own skilled horticulturists.

There are currently 45 people taking part, all coming from within a 25-mile radius of the nursery and with an age range of 16 to 70.