Film by Frederick Shelbourne
Organic Blooms is a British flower farm based just outside of Bristol. Their social enterprise status is focused around their commitment to providing job opportunities and training for local people with learning difficulties or problems with their mental health.
We visited in August, the weather was fine and the bees were buzzing. Their 9 acre site feels like a world away from all the beeping, honking, hustle and bustle of modern life. Upon arriving it is clear why this space encourages a calm and positive working environment.
Jo Wright, the head honcho, has a background in care and a passion for flowers. The healing and gentle appreciation of working on the land is a well respected remedy for improving mental health. Jo has pulled these two great loves of hers together and developed a business which 1) produces an incredible crop of 100% British cut flowers and 2) provides opportunities for local people who may otherwise struggle in conventional employment.
The working environment here was revolutionary to me and that’s quite something for someone who works above the beach! This type of work, I think is very good for you and from what I saw, has done a lot of good.
I of course understand that this type of work is only a small fraction of what we do here in the UK but what they are doing has a much more natural appeal to our senses than your average office job, sat hunched over your desk, square eyed and swilling coffee. Getting your hands in the dirt, tending to the needs of the plants, chatting with your neighbour as you work and burning off some energy which then absolutely entitles you to a slice of cake and a cup at tea time. Dogs were gambolling around our heals and weaving in and out of the flowers, it was encouraging to see them, their great companionship and busyness was amusing to see, as if they had their very own scheme of work and often couldn’t spare the time to chat. This has certainly been a theme of the projects I have visited, many of which are often based outside and are accompanied by a few happy dogs. While the office dog is certainly no stranger to me, I always do feel that they aren’t living up to their full potential cooped up with us between 4 walls.
Maybe we could all incorporate a little bit of this into our lives? On my visit I met Dan, who worked as the Content Manager at Pukka Herbs. Pukka Herbs, a very successful Bristol based organic herbal tea company had an interesting approach. They allow their employees a certain number of days a year to volunteer in an area of their choice. Dan had decided on Organic Blooms and after spending a few days here was thinking about switching down to a 4 day week.
I think this is a brilliant scheme, it means that you have to invest some of your time in your community and therefore you’ve got a wider understanding of what happens in your area, the people within it and what the issues might be. Maybe we are all too focused on the bottom line and could do with a bit of fresh air, hopefully our bosses are listening!
Organic Blooms ran their crowdfunding campaign between March and April and by the time I had arrived, Spring had sprung and I could see with my own eyes what the funds had bought them. They had extended their site by taking over an adjacent field and the land had already since been cleared and fresh poly tunnels erected. This extra room would enable Organic Blooms to significantly increase their production of flowers and the number of people they could employ. Demand for a product that is well respected for its quality, provenance and ethos is growing, so much so that Abel & Cole, the renown organic foods delivery company is now expanding their reach by bringing Organic Blooms onboard their national subscription service.
It’s not often that on one visit, the stars align and you meet such a variety of people associated with the scheme. We were lucky, for not only did we meet Dan the volunteer, the Founder Jo, Director Wendy but also Katy a Supervisor and Laura a supporter of the crowdfunding campaign.
Katy had arrived at Organic Blooms as an initial beneficiary of the scheme, and the work here had enabled her to build upon foundations which had been shaken by poor mental health. The support of the working community and her natural skill of tending plants and looking after others had been able to flourish and had awarded her with a permanent paid position. Since Katy has been with Organic Blooms she told us, “I haven’t really had a bad day since I’ve worked here”.
Laura the supporter, is based in the SW and after seeing the crowdfunding campaign online she decided to choose a reward which offered an opportunity to become an Organic Blooms flower farmer for a day. She was here with a friend to see the great work in action and was taking part in some of the everyday jobs done by those on the farm.
Organic Blooms managed £32,963 from 268 supporters in a crowdfunding campaign which ticked all of the boxes. They came into our world through the Go Daddy ‘What’s Your Idea’ campaign, where 45 projects went head to head to win match funding from an assortment of partners. Organic Blooms were initially awarded £1000 from the insurance company LV= and went onto receive £15,000 from our Santander Changemaker Fund.
In true crowdfunding spirit the momentum they gained from their campaign and the awareness they raised within it gave them the confidence to enter Virgin’s 2018 Voom competition where they went onto win Virgin’s ‘Unite Impact Award‘, presented by Richard and Holly Branson.
Feeling inspired? Start crowdfunding to make your idea a reality.