By Ways and Means
The Ways and Means Trust is a charity helping adults with learning or physical disabilities, or poor mental health. It provides social and practical skills for independent living, and training, education and work experience to assist adults working towards open employment.
The trust is a registered charity formed 50 years ago and aims to provide a safe environment where people are able to build or rebuild their skills, confidence and, where possible, move into full employment. It started in a building loaned from the then Reading-based company, Huntley and Palmer, before moving to Caversham, with the support of Courage Brewery, then also based in Reading. In June 2014 the charity moved its operation in its entirety to Manor Farm, Rotherfield Peppard, three miles west of Henley-on-Thames.
The charity has four areas of work: A light commercial packing and repackaging operation which offers contract packing, e.g., shrink-wrapping, collation, hand finishing, assembling point-of-sale displays and packing products for retail sales. A canteen operation , which has a mixture of domestic and commercial catering equipment. This allows learning of skills for independent living and gives experience for catering employment opportunities. Caverill is a small ‘own product’ operation, e.g., microwaveable oat filled heat packs, which take the place of the traditional hot water bottles and are safer to use. Caverill has recently expanded to include bespoke soft furnishing design projects for customers.
Greenshoot is potentially the better known of the Ways and Means Trust’s work as is its Plant Nursery – which is open to the public. It provides a variety of work, realistic nursery tasks underpinned by classroom teaching, including identification of groups of plants, propagation and cultivation, ground preparation and crop rotation, pest disease control and irrigation, container, vegetable and fruit crops, cultivation of the herb garden and bedding plants. Students may work independently, but often they choose to work in small teams to achieve the planting, growing and harvesting tasks. They specialise in growing vegetable, salad, soft and orchard fruit crops, which they pick and sell throughout the seasons. Where possible, these crops are grown without added chemicals, for example, pesticides, fertilisers or fungicides, so although they don’t have the Soil Association’s Organic Standard mark, the produce is nearly all chemical free. Those working at Greenshoots work with customers, both commercial and private, to design bespoke hanging baskets and trough planting schemes for summer and winter displays, or for a special events, for example, a wedding or celebratory occasion. These will often need to be planned and ordered well ahead of the event.
The Trust has recently launched a plant vacation service, whereby customers return their hanging baskets and troughs to Greenshoots as they go on holiday where they are cared for and watered or re-filled with new seasonal planting. Chickens were introduced to the site a few years ago and live happily in the orchard so the students now have experience of cleaning and caring for them. They also collect eggs from the chickens daily, which are sold to the public.
As Denise Manning of the Trust says: “We have different sides to our work because not everyone wants to go out in the garden. In terms of publicity and support the gardening side is ‘sexy’, with the plants, but we are a small place and trying to keep our head above water for our clients.” The people benefiting from working and learning at the Trust number about 60 per week. They can self refer or be referred by an agency, but the first thing Denise recommends they do is call to make an appointment to come and see the Trust in its leafy corner of Oxfordshire. Those attending earn a ‘little bit of pocket money’ as well as acquiring skills. Earlier this year the trust was given a little national recognition through local designer Lynne Lambourne who used their plants in her sustainable garden at the Ideal Home Show exhibition at London Olympia. Henley Life featured her garden in its May issue, with each and every plant produced by and cared for by the men and women working at Greenshoots nursery.