Evaluation of the Master Gardener Programme
The Master Gardener programme is a volunteer support network, proving free local advice and support growing food to local people and communities. The programme initially ran as a pilot (2010-2014), funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Scheme and the Sheepdrove Trust, in Warwickshire, Norfolk, North London, South London and Lincolnshire (with Public Health funding). In 2011 the research team was commissioned to evaluate the health, social and environmental impacts of the programme, as well as the impacts on local food systems.
The national evaluation comprised four rounds of data collection (2011 – 2014) and involved a number of interviews with coordinators, questionnaires and focus groups with volunteer Master Gardeners, and questionnaires and interviews with mentored households. Overall, the national evaluation comprised 299 survey responses, 12 focus groups and over 50 interviews.
The evaluation found the programme to have a range of impacts on the lives of the volunteers and households involved (as well as volunteer coordinators), demonstrating the interconnectedness of the impacts delivered by the programme. The programme achieved its aim of encouraging more people to grow their own food, which resulted in a range of positive behavioural changes for volunteers and mentored households. The longer term impacts of the programme highlight quite a substantial difference in the impact on volunteers lives compared to the lives of households in a number of areas.
To summarise, growing food within the realm of the Master Gardener Programme was found to contribute towards building community and resilience in a range of settings, enabling people to learn, to succeed (and fail) through the supportive, informal, flexible and personal mentoring offered. It provides the opportunity for physical, outdoor activity, the consumption of healthy produce and leads to greater understanding and awareness of a range of topics as well as improved wellbeing.
The findings have contributed to the operation of the programme in other areas; the research team recently evaluated the programme’s impacts in Medway (2013-2014) using the same methodology as in the national evaluation for comparability, as well as additional household video diaries. Furthermore, the programme is now delivered in a local prison as a gardening intervention with substance misuse offenders. Coventry University have been evaluating the impacts of the programme in a prison setting which is led by Geraldine Brown; Elizabeth Bos, Geraldine Brady, Moya Kneafsey and Martin Glynn are also part of the research team.
Take a look at the related project: 'Evaluation of the Master Gardener programme at Rye Hill Prison: A horticultural intervention with substance misusing offenders'
Take a look at the related project: 'The role of land-based interventions in the transition from prison to the community'
Kneafsey, M., Owen, L. , Bos, E. , Broughton, K. and Lennartsson, M. (2017) Capacity building for food justice in England: the contribution of charity-led community food initiatives. Local Environment, 22 (5) 621-634.
The aim of this project is to reach higher levels of organisation and networking, and develop a healthier, and more productive and harmonious farming sector in Europe for the long term.
ESRC Festival: Community Food Growing in Lambeth
Senior Research Assistant Lizzi Bos was recently awarded £800 to run an event as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science week in November, with a team from CBiS. The event aims to showcase community food growing in Lambeth, London and draws upon Lizzi's doctoral research.