The Old Railway Garden Centre, Brecon
Potato growing contest
My name is Matt Lewis and I work at The Old Railway Garden Centre in Brecon.
I have been Cultivation Street Ambassador for the past few years and have been lucky enough to win Ambassador of the year in 2017 and come runner up in 2018. I enjoy working alongside Cultivation street as I love the ethos and objectives of the campaign. I have a passion for encouraging the younger generation to start gardening as it provides a fantastic learning platform and outdoor activities to enjoy. Teaching children how to grow fruit and vegetables for example, is invaluable in building an understanding of where their food comes from... and it is also great fun.
Cultivation Street is important to us as a garden centre as it helps us connect with our local communities and schools. It is great to see the enthusiasm which comes from local gardening groups and their dedication to brightening up our local area. We love encouraging these projects and help them out where possible! It’s is also a great way to encourage new gardeners to participate in the gardening groups and projects in the area who naturally become regular visitors. It’s always great to encourage new faces to the centre!
Potato growing contest
One of the projects that we run to get our local communities involved in gardening is our annual potato growing competition. This begins with a meeting with all the head teachers from our local primary schools. We discuss the competition, start dates and when it will end.
I then visit each school to run a planning workshop to launch the competition. We plant an example tub with one of the classes who learn how to grow their own vegetables. This is a great exercise to educate them about where food comes from and get them enthusiastic about gardening at home. This class then passes the information onto all other classes in their school who also plant potatoes as part of the competition.
All classes within the primary school cluster take part in the competition with the largest crop winning a prize in each school. One overall winner from all schools is then awarded the top prize at the end of the summer term. It’s always an enjoyable visit just before the Summer holidays to weight the potatoes from each class to determine the winners. Members from the winning class from each school are then invited to the garden centre where we will reveal the overall school winner who is presented with a shield and voucher prize which they can use for their school gardening projects.
We currently run this competition with 5 schools in our local high school catchment area: Hay-on-Wye, Clyro, Archdeacon Griffiths, Ysgol Mynnydd Du and Llangorse.
The children really enjoyed the challenge last year and were very enthusiastic to get gardening. I think that is fascinating for the children to see where their food comes from and that by using only one seed potato, they could produce enough for a family meal! It is also a great task for building confidence as the children become the teachers when planting with their fellow classmates and passing on the tips for growing the best crop!
What the schools had to say!..
The ECO Committee thoroughly enjoyed working with Matthew and Mike to plant the potatoes. They learnt how to plant the potatoes for optimum growth and how to look after them. They are keen to share their knowledge with their classmates.
This type of project is so important as not only does it enrich the children's curriculum, but it teaches them valuable, lifelong skills. For some of the children this will be the beginning of a lifelong love of growing and gardening.
The children thoroughly enjoy the element of competition; it motivates them and is an excellent project for school to school working. We can't thank Matthew and The Old Railway Line Garden Centre enough for introducing this worthwhile project to the children.
Miss Louise Simms, Headteacher at Archdeacon Griffiths CIW Primary School
By taking part in the Old Railway Line Garden Centre potato growing challenge and working with Matthew the children are learning how to grow, look after and care for plants, encouraging and developing their nurturing side, as well, of course, their sense of competition against each class and the other schools!
Mrs. Sarah Groves, Headteacher at Clyro Church in Wales Primary School
Published in the Sunday Mirror
Here at Cultivation Street, we are lucky to have a network of ambassadors that are ready to get stuck in and share their passion for gardening with their local communities. Each ambassador is unique and finds their own way to help local organisations. Matthew Lewis, from The Old Railway garden centre in Brecon Wales, is the perfect example of what a Cultivation Street ambassador is all about.
One of Matthew’s projects is an annual potato growing contest. It is a great example of his inspiring community work. Matthew visits one class at each of the schools taking part and demonstrates the planting of a tub of potatoes. This class then helps the rest of the school to plant their own class tub of potatoes. At the end of the summer term, The Old Railway garden centre hands out prizes for the largest crop!
Matthew explains how a simple, yet exciting, project can educate children about the world around them, while having fun at the same time. “The children really enjoyed this challenge and were very enthusiastic to get gardening. It is fascinating for the children to see where their food comes from. Using only one seed potato, they could produce enough for a family meal! It’s a great task for building confidence. Children become the teachers when planting with their fellow classmates and pass on their tips for growing the best crop!”
Miss Louise Simms, Headteacher of Archdeacon Griffiths CIW Primary School, added “This type of project not only enriches the children's curriculum, but it teaches them valuable, lifelong skills. We can't thank Matthew and The Old Railway Line Garden Centre enough for introducing this worthwhile project to the children.”
Cultivations Street’s annual competition, sponsored by Calliope®, is open to schools and communities up and down the country. For more information, visit cultivationstreet.com
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