Digging for their dinner – garden group for disabled adults sees business blooming

HOME GROWN ... Clients from the Shaw Trust , The Heathway, Parkside are taking on the supermarkets by growing there own fruit and veg.''Group shot, from left''Julie Smith, Barry Milburn and Paul Cook.
HOME GROWN ... Clients from the Shaw Trust , The Heathway, Parkside are taking on the supermarkets by growing there own fruit and veg.''Group shot, from left''Julie Smith, Barry Milburn and Paul Cook.
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A GARDEN group for disabled adults is delighted with the way its business is blooming.

The Shaw Trust’s Dig for Dinner project in Seaham, which is celebrating it’s first anniversary, has seen shoppers flocking to the centre to buy fresh produce.

Gardeners grow a range of fruit, vegetables and plants and sell them at the garden centre in Heathway, Parkside and through local shops at reasonable prices.

The initiative has been hailed a huge success with produce being bought in large quantities by pubs and restaurants in the area to serve up to customers.

Fifty-one clients and 14 members of staff work on the 51-acre site and as well as the adults with special needs getting the chance to learn about horticulture, they also gain new skills in IT, woodwork, cookery, numeracy and literacy.

Elaine Duffy, project manager at the site, said she is delighted with the way things have gone over the past 12 months.

She said: “We help people gain practical experience.

“It’s a working environment.”

She added: “Dig for Dinner is a lottery-funded project. The aim is to produce commercially available fruit and veg to sell to the community.

“We’re cheaper because we’re homegrown and we also offer education on healthy eating.”

Elaine said everything people see at the site has been built or grown by the clients and nothing goes to waste, with leftover fruit and veg made into jams and chutney.

She said: “This is a not-for-profit organisation. All income goes back into the scheme. We’re hoping for more funding to buy a van to become even more sustainable.

“You don’t have to have a garden to grow your own vegetables – you can use a windowbox, a basket or even a tyre, so it’s about being creative too.”

The Shaw Trust in Seaham is part of a national charity which helps disabled people to prepare for the world of work, live more independent lives and gives them help to find employment.

The garden centre, which is at the top of Heathway, is open from Monday to Friday between 8am and 4pm. For more information, tel. 581 9274.

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