Re-launch for service helping adult learners

The official re-opening of Thistles Nursery at Sutterton.
The official re-opening of Thistles Nursery at Sutterton.

A horticultural nursery and day service for adults with learning difficulties has relaunched as a co-operative.

Thistles Market Garden in Sutterton now has a more secure future since a not-for-profit co-operative took over from Lincolnshire County Council (LCC).

The service offers a safe and caring learning environment for adults to develop life skills while also operating like a commercial horticultural nursery.

Liz Judge and Sue Corr have been at the helm for the past few years – employed by LCC as community support workers. The two have now been made directors – on a board of volunteer directors.

Liz and Sue said the future now promises ‘more flexibility and access to funding that the county council could not access’.

“Now Thistles is a co-operative, all of the profits generated go back into improving the service provide,” they said. “Continuing to work in close partnership with LCC, this in turn allows us to accommodate the individuality of this niche market more efficiently, which will benefit not only the people accessing the site but also the local community.”

Adults attend five days-a-week and get hands-on experience of raising seedlings and caring for plants, fruit and vegetables.

Numeracy and literacy is also built into the programme. For the last three years, Thistles has supported Boston in Bloom, growing and supplying plants and helping out with planting. The nursery receives support from the community and helps cover costs by selling some of the produce and by making up baskets for customers.

Justin Hackney chief commissioning officer at the county council said: “Thanks to Thistles entrepreneurial plans, more people could benefit from the services they offer which means the services are likely to be more sustainable.”

The handover was marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Boston Mayor Coun Alison Austin to signify the new beginning.

She also handed out WEA certificates to students for learning life-skills.