Huge advances in specialized farming practises have helped the world grow food productively and safely. As often happens with humans though, we tend to go overboard and sometimes end up with unintended consequences. The ecological / organic gardening movement has been going since the 1920’s and is about remembering how we used to farm food before we discovered chemical fertilisers, pesticides and preservatives.
There is nothing wrong for our desire to control nature in order to provide more and serve us better, but thinking of the future should be part of our plans. If we don’t monitor and control our march of domination, we are in danger of destroying the very hand that feeds us.
Ecological vegetable gardening mastered by adults with learning/cognitive disabilities is a novel concept. While ecological gardening in general is increasingly becoming popular, the actual training towards such gardening is barely existent, and entirely non-existent when we consider as target group to be trained adults with learning/cognitive disabilities.
Is this going back in time realistic one may ask? It is. In the mid 1990s MAFF/DEFRA funded a series of research projects exploring the issues associated with converting conventional farms to organic production. One of these concerned field vegetable production in particular. These showed that although there were technical problems to be overcome (e.g. weed control and soil fertility) the major barriers to conversion were more often concerned with marketing of the vegetables.
Our project wants to go a step further by focusing on those that will perform the ecological vegetable gardening: students with learning/cognitive disabilities which are studying in gardening VET subjects: Gardening technician, Gardening practitioner, Gardening worker.
This also involves the possibility for a peer support by more advanced students who can lead groups of students while learning leadership skills and all students can have a hand in producing a physical product that they can show their friends and family at the end of the day.
To achieve this, the project will train VET teachers at inclusive way of provision of education in mastering the concept of inclusive ecological vegetable gardening, whose students can then participate and become experts in their own right. The students could even demonstrate their skills to other schools. Thus, our inclusive ecological vegetable gardening approach will raise new awareness among youth for new entrepreneurial initiatives as well, whereby they embrace ecological vegetable gardening as well as the employment of people with disabilities. Such ecological vegetable gardening initiatives can be provided by our trained experts to schools (primary and secondary), but also VET centres, thus stimulating youth in this growing market.
Inclusive ecological vegetable gardening will as such become a learning tool for students with learning/cognitive disabilities. They will be able to grow fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for their cooking lessons. Additionally, students with learning and behaviour disabilities will have a hands-on learning environment where a broad range of abilities can work together and learn not just science, but also math, art, and literature while also learning important skills such as working in a group and project planning. And this will contribute also to their employability, and professional development (social entrepreneurship).
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