Green-fingered adults with learning disabilities are digging their way to success with the fruit and vegetables they grow set to be sold by a local business.

The four members of the Happy Diggers group are supported by Hft at its day opportunities centre in Morpeth, where the group grows seasonal produce on a large allotment. A local café recently expressed interest in buying their produce, and the group was keen to accept.

Wheelchair accessible with raised beds, the large double plot has been in use by the charity since March 2015, when Hft staff members were inspired to provide a new horticultural activity. With the help of the Pegswood Allotment Society, a plot was prepared, including a shed, signage and plenty of space for growing. The initiative was an instant success, with people supported by the charity relishing the fresh air and exercise, as well as a new-found appreciation of where their food comes from.

After hearing about the scheme from customers supported by Hft, the owners of a local café suggested a partnership. Delighted to accept, members of the gardening group are now hard at work growing an assortment of nutritious produce ranging from raspberries to rhubarb to tomatoes. Food containing the locally-grown ingredients will be available from the café soon.

Rita Love, Day Services Manager, said:

“We’re so pleased to be working closely with a local business on such a rewarding scheme, which helps the people we support to live the best life possible. The Happy Diggers take great pride in their work and have grown in confidence and developed new skills as a result.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie on the allotment, with other plot holders generously donating seeds and plants to help us get off the ground. We’re hoping they and other locals will enjoy the produce grown by the group and are looking forward to putting the money raised from this exciting partnership towards new seeds and equipment for the coming year.”

Andrew, a member of the Happy Diggers group, said:

“I like the fresh air and exercise. I enjoy planting out and seeing the final product and we learn new things every week. It’s a friendly atmosphere.”

Joe, who is also a member of the Happy Diggers group, said:

“I like working at the allotments because it is peaceful. I enjoy being outdoors and the work that goes with it.”

Hft offers person-centred learning disability services ranging from residential care to supported employment and supported living at home – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day.

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About Hft

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,900 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Established in 1962, the charity uses its own unique Fusion Model to consistently deliver high quality, person-centred support across all its services.

Services range from supported living to residential care – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.

For more information about Hft, please visit www.hft.org.uk

Information about learning disabilities

A learning disability can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and is defined as having a reduced ability to:

  • Understand new or complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Live independently

For more information about learning disabilities, please visit www.hft.org.uk/resources-and-guidance