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Meet The Fifth Trust team #1

27 May 2021


In the first of a series of articles introducing some of the people who work for The Fifth Trust, we  meet Laurence Jordan, horticulture instructor at our Barham skills centre.

Laurence, pictured above, joined The Fifth Trust in September 2020 after a career that to date has taken in work as varied as tree surgery and gardening in the UK, beekeeping in Turkey and cocoa farming in India.

Now he is sharing his wide-ranging knowledge and love of nature with our students. Through our horticulture course, students learn how fruit and vegetables grow by getting their hands dirty – charting the journey from seed germination to plate.

“I think it is really important for the sessions to be engaging with tangible results, so I encourage the students to try what we grow by cooking soup or simply throwing something tasty in a pan,” says Laurence, who also has experience as a chef and is a keen forager. Student Dan, pictured below, certainly approves. “We’ve made nettle soup which was good and I liked the broccoli we grew,” he explains. The first crops from mushroom growing kits also went down a storm.

Four large polytunnels, shared use of the Vineyard garden centre’s propagation unit – which supplies plant stock for sale to the public – and a sizeable vegetable plot means there is plenty of scope to grow a wide range of edibles. Laurence estimates he has close to 100 different crops at various stages on the go at present, from rhubarb, runner beans, courgettes and potatoes to chilli peppers, garlic and the intriguing-sounding cucamelon – a Mexican fruit that tastes like cucumber and lime.

He is enthusiastic about harnessing nature’s help to maximise crop yields and add interest to sessions. Students are trying companion planting to see if garlic really does ward off the butterflies which lay their eggs on cabbages (which in turn hatch into leaf-munching caterpillars) and the ancient Native American Three Sisters method of interplanting corn, beans and squash to deter weeds and pests, enrich the soil, and support each other.

A small amount of each crop is allowed to flower so students can harvest the seed for the next season and see the full growing cycle. Nothing goes to waste – there is compost to make and even dock leaves and nettles get turned into free and harmless fertiliser.

While the main focus is on giving students as wide-ranging a horticultural experience as possible, the size of our 11-acre site means it can also supply some fresh produce for the Vineyard café and the ingredients students use to make into our popular range of chutneys.

Horticultural students are also given the opportunity to grow their own veg to take home as part of the work they do at the Vineyard garden centre, which also includes pricking up and potting on plants grown in the propagation unit for sale, weeding and putting stock out on display.

Laurence says: “What I enjoy most about this role is that no two days are exactly the same because we work in accordance with the seasons. By the time you’ve finished planting the runner beans the courgettes and pumpkins are ready to go out, and then before you know it you’re picking the first vine tomatoes. Then comes the sweetcorn and you spy tiny apples ripening on the tree.

“You’re kept on your toes, anticipating next week’s bounty. It’s well worth getting your hands dirty for!”

*Horticulture is just one of the diverse range of sessions we offer to the adults with learning disabilities who attend The Fifth Trust. The donations we receive enable us to deliver the best-quality experience for our students in all of these activities. If you would like to support us, please click here.