It gives me the greatest possible pleasure to be here today to celebrate Garden Organic’s Golden Jubilee. Ever since the visionary Lawrence Hills established the organization back in 1958, its purpose has been a simple and clear one – to help people garden and grow organically through practical demonstration and shared learning.
Now 50 years on, I think it is a testament to Lawrence’s vision that we are all here today to mark this historic occasion and with all ages represented. If I may say so, I was hugely impressed by the Produce Show, where I was so pleased to see some especially fine compost, amongst other things! I suspect I have met some of the Bob Flowerdews of the future this afternoon!
And it is particularly important that Garden Organic focuses so much of its work in schools - and I am delighted that Duchy Originals has been, for many years, such a stalwart supporter of Garden Organic for Schools - and supporting local community growing initiatives, as well as helping individuals wanting to grow their own food organically for the very first time and understanding about composting and what to do with waste, which is the perennial challenge we all face.
We have to do all we can to reconnect people to the land so that they understand how their food is grown and puts them back in touch with Nature: to learn about the seasons, about the weather and to experience the joys of planting a seed and then being able to harvest food to eat. And at a time when food sovereignty is becoming an increasing issue and with high fuel prices, there could not be a better time to encourage people to grow their own food wherever possible. And it doesn’t need an acre of garden, because a window-box is a very good start! As Patron of the now ending Year of Food and Farming, I have been particularly encouraged that Garden Organic has been working in partnership with local businesses and schools to give every encouragement and help to schools to dig up some of that awful black tarmac and start growing vegetables.
Garden Organic is, of course, renowned for its Heritage Seed Library making it a leader in protecting genetic biodiversity. Everyone here knows what devastating consequences the EU regulations from the mid 1970s had on traditional and older varieties of seed. It is hardly believable that these could make the sale of vegetable seeds a criminal offence unless the variety was registered on a National or EU list, but that is what happened. It is so costly to register a seed that many of the varieties, once commercially available, started disappearing from seed catalogues. So I think we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to both Lawrence Hills and the Heritage Seed Library!
If I may say so, it is a real joy for me to see so many long standing friends and supporters today, particularly Alan and Jackie Gear to whom a great debt is owed for all that they did to make this organization what it is today. And I can only say how lucky and Garden Organic is clearly lucky to have found someone of Myles Bremner’s calibre to run it. My thanks, too, goes out to all Garden Organic’s supporters, especially Amy Goldman, who has help has been utterly invaluable over so many years and whose splendid Lillian Goldman Rose Garden I opened today.
Garden Organic’s purpose continues to be a simple one – to encourage people to grow organically, or as I prefer to put it, sustainably. With your help, it will continue to inspire and educate the generation of today and tomorrow, equipping them with such necessary basic skills. It will continue to be the safeguard of biodiversity, through its Heritage Seed Library. And it will continue to do its work in a no-nonsense and eminently practical way.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is thanks to the commitment and dedication of its members, staff, volunteers and supporters that it has come so far over the last fifty years – and 20 of which I have been proud to be your Patron - and to each and every one of you I can only offer my most heartfelt congratulations.