In cities all around Europe, volunteers, neighbors and staff are soiling their hands by getting involved as gardeners: they cultivate land, grow food and work with plants in community gardens.
Amongst these committed gardeners you’ll find also those who - besides hoes and rakes - work with spreadsheets too: the people who additionally to gardening take on key coordinating roles. You may call them Gardenisers - the word being a portmanteau of “garden” + “organiser”.
Besides gardening skills, this role requires good communication, mediation, organisation, management skills and the ability to enable volunteers and staff to be fully included in the work that garden is doing.
The Gardeniser program provides a professional framework for this profile on a European scale. Featuring a very structured training course, well defined training objectives and contents and a cherry on the cake: the Gardeniser Licence. All that based on the ECVET credit system, aiming at contributing to the recognition of the Gardeniser figure.
Chris Jones attended the Gardeniser Pro training in 2019 and became the first graduate of a Gardeniser training course to get a job as a Gardeniser in UK. To learn more about her experience and thoughts, we caught up with her to hear the whole story.
„IT GIVES YOU THE CONFIDENCE OF HAVING A PROFESSIONAL SKILL“
The story of a Gardeniser Pro training graduate
How did the job come about for you? Was that employer looking specifically for someone with a Gardeniser licence?
I went for a new job at a garden owned by a charity. It was a listed landscape, to be managed as a project for people in recovery. The job advertised was Head Gardener, working with the residents: teaching them horticulture, in part to help bring the gardens back to life after 20 years of neglect. I mentioned I was doing the Gardeniser course during the interview and one of the interviewers suggested making the job title Head Gardeniser instead. It was an exciting moment—I felt like they really got the whole concept.
How much of the Gardeniser training did you use in that role?
I used lots of the course in the job. Come to think of it, I used something from every section of it! Budgeting and cash flow, to work out how to bring in income; learning about the residents of the project, people in recovery; inducting and evaluating volunteers, managing how they interacted with the residents; safeguarding. I even used the buying land bit. I used the heads of terms document to negotiate the lease of our arboretum to a forest school nearby. It was helpful to know what kinds of reassurances the school needed and to understand the landlord’s perspective as well.
How about in your current role?
In my current job I’m the volunteer coordinator for a substance recovery charity with an allotment. My job is to set up new programmes for people to join or tap into. The skills are all the same: negotiating, linking with the local community; estimating what is realistic; dealing with people; trying to find things for them to do; encouraging people to do things they might not do otherwise; working with volunteers. I was a bit sad not to have Gardeniser as my title in the contract, but I still feel like one.
Can you say a little more about that? What has been the overall impact of the training for you?
Being part of the first Gardeniser Pro cohort [in 2019] was really exciting. I didn’t feel I was alone anymore—somebody else out there understood what I was doing. The second thing that was exciting was that someone wanted to make a professional job title of it: give it some credibility, recognise the skills you need and provide a way of qualifying in that skill set. You can then say this is what I do and these are the skills I need to do it. It became clearer in my mind what I was doing. And the third thing that was exciting to be in a room of your peers who understood on a day to day basis what you go through. A lot of us had the problem of our employers not understanding what we did, as well the practical stuff like testing soil for contaminants, how to build a raised bed, and so forth.
Also doing the internship, going to France, was such a big realisation for me. We had to run a volunteer event, plan it and invite the volunteers. We changed the event programme to attract more children; we designed another bit of the garden that could be used by children or inexperienced volunteers; we improved the budget. We did all of that in five days. It was quite full-on.
What it showed me was that I could go to that garden and in a week have a fairly good bash at changing it to go down a different direction, depending on what the people who were running it wanted. Now I can do this at any garden. It gave me the confidence that I’m a Gardeniser, not just someone who works at a garden. And that is a fantastic feeling, that I’ve got a professional skill.
DETAILS & DATES
Gardeniser: Urban Community Garden Organiser
The Gardeniser training program, composed by training course and internship, is designed to professionalize, support and enhance the role and the work of Gardenisers. Trainings are regularly taking place all over Europe, the Gardeniser Pro training pathway is equivalent to 7.5 ECVET credit and finishes off with a professional qualification: the Gardeniser Pro license. For further details on the Gardeniser training program and upcoming training dates please visit www.gardeniser.eu