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How Cultivating Change began!

Sally and Rosie
Sally Nye and Rosie Ferrandino

Welcome to our

first blog post!

I am Sal from Cultivating Change, a seed donation initiative set up to support wellbeing, mental health & community via gardening and ‘grow your own’.

The initiative launched in August 2020, so we are almost a year old! The initiative came about during conversations with friends about personal challenges, lockdown difficulties, goals, both personal and professional and wellbeing needs.

I’m a mother to 3 children aged 13, 11 and 9 years old. I used to be a teacher of geography at a secondary school in Essex, a position I loved, partly due to the sense of community it created, but had to give up in 2015 due to debilitating chronic back pain. Since then I’ve had 8 back operations.

This was a really difficult time. I was in a great deal of pain and felt I’d lost my purpose. At the same time family problems added to my health problems and I ended up really struggling with my mental health, which was difficult to accept and process. The road to recovery is a long one, but I have gained support from some amazing people including family and friends and I joined a positive mindset group called BEST where I met two amazing ladies called Janey Holliday and Gill Harvey Bush. Being part of this fantastic group helped me to gradually believe in myself more, and start to see that anything was possible. I also started coaching sessions with Gill, who has been an inspiration to me. Her experience and positive approach to life really helped me to take steps towards finding my purpose again and getting my life back on track.

In 2020 I had my 8th operation and had a spinal cord stimulator fitted in my back, which is beginning to reduce my pain, allowing me to live life a little more!

My husband, Dan runs a pioneering commercial seed company, CN Seeds. They have been keen to increase their charitable efforts and find a socially responsible way to make use of their surplus seed stock.

When Gill from BEST heard about this, she set me a challenge! To marry the CN Seeds goal with my personal goal to find a way to provide restorative activities in the wellbeing space. With Gill's encouragement and advice and support from my wonderful friends, especially Rosie, a very old friend, who happens to work with CN Seeds… Cultivating Change was born.

Rosie and I have been friends for 35 years and she has worked alongside me from the start, developing Cultivating Change. Her expertise and friendship has made the journey so much fun and I could never have imagined that working with your best mate could happen!

So what is Cultivating Change?

We are a seed donation initiative supported by CN Seeds with the aim of improving peoples’ quality of life either mentally, physically or socially.

Our aim is for potential beneficiaries to apply for a bundle of seeds provided by CN Seeds; each bundle includes herbs, vegetable and flower seeds. Applicants need to express why they think they would benefit from receiving seeds to grow and be keen to join our growing virtual Cultivators for Change community over on Facebook. Our growers use the social media platform to document their growing experience, post photos, ask questions, support each other, connect with others and talk about the impact the process has on their wellbeing. Our #cultivatorsforchange are from all sorts of backgrounds, gardeners both novices and those with experience, schools, scouts, community gardens and projects and we now have over 90 growers in our community all connecting and encouraging each other.

There are well documented links between gardening/connecting with nature and improvements in wellbeing. Evidence shows that the benefits of gardening are broad and diverse, with studies all over the world showing that gardening and nature based interventions and activities can lead to significant improvements in many areas of wellbeing for adults and children, such as…

  • Reduction in stress, anxiety and depression

  • Boosting self-belief, confidence and a positive sense of achievement

  • Increasing connections with others, creating social links & community involvement

  • Potentially reducing reliance on medication

  • Promotes mindfulness, headspace and active relaxation

There are also excellent benefits for children…

  • Understanding where food comes from and encourages the trying of new foods

  • Responsibility, confidence and self esteem

  • A great extension of lessons learned at school - numeracy, data gathering, literacy, research etc.

What some of our 2021 growers have said…

“I’m so grateful to spend time in my garden & greenhouse surrounded by nature”

“The enthusiasm and responsibility that has been created is amazing”

“Tucking the new seeds into their soily beds brings me comfort & when they sprout, I feel joyful and proud”

“I love to be outside in nature getting my hands dirty...I find that gardening reduces my stress”

We will be opening the application process again at the end of the summer, with seeds arriving in February 2022. The scheme is open to all, including individuals, families, schools, mental health charities, community gardens, allotments etc. There are no restrictions! Just let us know how it will help you and be happy to get involved with our community.

We have lots of exciting plans for the future and are passionate to improve the access to nature and gardening opportunities to those struggling with mental health in hospitals and the community.

Thanks to CN Seeds for the seeds and supporting our initiative.

Let’s get growing #everyseedanopportunity

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