Garden Organic – Membership Benefits

If you are still wondering whether to renew your subscription to SEEOG, you may wish to consider the following benefits which are available but not widely known.

Brief History

Garden Organic is the current trading style of The Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA). This organisation was started by Laurence Hills in 1954 on an acre of land in Bocking, adjacent to Braintree. The idea of the Association was to carry out research into growing plants organically. Laurence’s initial inspiration came after reading of Henry Doubleday’s experiences with comfrey in the 1900s and this was the subject of early trials – hence the name of the organisation and the name given to the strain of comfrey now used by most organic gardeners – Bocking 14.

This ‘club for experimenting gardeners’ grew slowly but surely and, by the early eighties, had outgrown its Bocking site. (Do you remember it, did you go there, have you any photos?) A derelict, 22-acre smallholding at Ryton-on-Dunsmore near Coventry was purchased in 1985 and this has gradually been developed and improved, boasting an organic restaurant and shop, conferencing
facilities and 20 acres of trial and demonstration gardens. (SEEOG visited in 2009) Although still constituted as HDRA, the organisation has recently adopted the more informative styling of ‘Garden Organic’ and has over 40,000 supporters worldwide, of which SEEOG and its members are included.

Current Aims

From simple aims, Garden Organic now boasts a huge variety of major projects and influences all aspects of organic thinking.

  • They carry out research into organic growing methods;
  • They have an international development arm which assists overseas farming communities;
  • They provide ‘Organic Gardening Guidelines’ and give advice on organic growing methods;
  • They provide advice for schools interested in giving pupils the opportunity to learn about food and growing;
  • The site at Ryton is open to members and the public and is set out as 30 different demonstration gardens, including the world’s first public biodynamic garden;
  • They operate a Heritage Seed Library to preserve old varieties of garden vegetables and they have helped in the restoration of Audley End Organic Kitchen Garden, which is now run on organic principles.

Take a look at the Garden Organic website at www.gardenorganic.co.uk – there is a huge amount of information on both the organisation and on organic growing.

Member Benefits

Member benefits are obviously wide and ever changing, the latest information being given in the quarterly magazine ‘The Organic Way’ which is available for reference on our library table. The following are some of the more obvious benefits:

  • Organic Factsheets on growing and organic methods (available at SEEOG’s meetings)
  • Growing Cards on popular and not-so-popular fruit and vegetables
  • Participation in an Internet Forum to swap ideas and opinions
  • ‘Ask the Experts’ facility
  • Seed saving guidelines and tips
  • Access to past editions of The Organic Way, the quarterly magazine of Garden Organic – current editions are available for reference at our meetings
  • Taking part in Members’ Experiments

Most of these are available through the Members’ Area of the Garden Organic website, but you will need a ‘login name’ and password to access this area. SEEOG members can obtain these from Carole (SEEOG’S Secretary) here.

SEEOG’s involvement

Since 2008, SEEOG has always encouraged all Essex schools to register with the Food for Life Partnership which brings together the expertise of four focused food charities, the Soil Association, Focus on Food Campaign, Health Education Trust and Garden Organic.

As you will have gathered, Garden Organic is one of the foremost organic organisations in this country and we look forward to further interaction with them in the coming years.

With grateful thanks for the idea to Peter Robinson, Membership Secretary, Norfolk Organic Group