A Silver Lining: The Orchard Project Provides a “Lifeline” During the Pandemic

A Silver Lining: The Orchard Project Provides a “Lifeline” During the Pandemic

In August 2020, 17 new students gathered in London’s Valentine Park for their first training session of The Orchard Project’s Crossfields Institute Level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding or CICO course. Unknowingly, this was the one of the few times that the participants would enjoy the physical presence of group gathering for many months to come. The winter lockdown has been gruelling and long, but many of the CICO students have found the course to be a light in the dark; not only a means of maintaining regular contact with others, but also a welcome distraction to learn new skills. It has even become a source for hope amidst the employment crisis hitting many sectors.

Rather than cancel the CICO course when the pandemic struck, Training Manager, Jo Homan, worked tirelessly to transform the course into a blended format: a mix of online study with in-person, practical sessions outdoors. The students who were already enrolled on the sixth delivery of the course, had to adapt to learning online last November. Those who’ve registered on the new blended course will enjoy five in-person sessions try out new skills, like pruning and grafting, while respecting the social-distance safety measures. But the online training sessions are proving successful in allowing students to feel connected, both to each other and to our brilliant team of tutors.

“There is a real sense of community and support within our group of teachers and students alike, – even though we have had some training days online;” says Liz, one of the students. “I’ve found this invaluable during this Pandemic.”

Rosa and Sharon, who completed the CICO course in December 2020

The online component of the course involves training videos, presentations and interactive quizzes. It is proving popular! In the words of current student, Maggie:

“Like many others I have found keeping positive during lockdown a bit of a challenge at times. Having the CICO course has helped and supported me in ways I never imagined. It has delivered in spadefuls! Brilliantly crafted with each module flowing organically into the next… and listening to the (online) presentations with orchard birdsong, I can feel myself relaxing.”

As well as forging connections during an isolating time, the CICO course is also opening up new career pathways for some students. We are yet to know the full economic impact of the pandemic, but is it already being acutely felt by many at an individual level: Liz lost her job in the theatre sector during the first lockdown. Rather than face the difficult prospect of job-hunting during uncertain times, she decided to harness her desire to help tackle climate change; signing-up to the CICO course seemed like a great way to do this.

Liz plants a tree in the community allotment nursery, which she established while studying for the CICO certificate.

“This course is a lifeline, enabling me to change career direction and give me hope for the future”, Liz says. “On the first day, learning about the …layers of biodiversity as we sat under the shade of a huge mulberry tree… I knew it was perfect for me.”

The CICO course takes students on a journey lasting almost a year, allowing for familiarity with the orchard in every season. It provides a chance to not only learn about every aspect of orchards, but also to build strong connections with course-mates and with the natural world.

lla and Tana hone their pruning skills. They graduated from the CICO course during the pandemic in December 2020

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit the course info page on The Orchard Project’s website  or see the qualification specification on the Crossfields Institute website here.

Article adapted from https://www.theorchardproject.org.uk/news/a-silver-lining-orchard-course-provides-a-lifeline-during-the-pandemic/

New regulated qualification in Community Orcharding

Crossfields Institute and the Orchard Project are delighted to announce the launch of an Ofqual regulated qualification in England in Community Orcharding.

Crossfields Institute Level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding
is now open for registrations.

This qualification is designed for people who want to develop the understanding, knowledge and skills to be able to care for fruit and nut trees, build biodiverse habitats and contribute to a community orchard project.

The drive behind creating this unique qualification is the growing interest in urban green spaces as a means of assisting community cohesion and allowing for outdoor spaces to be used for the benefit of people, to promote biodiversity and create wildlife habitats in cities, towns and villages. Community orchards are a good way of generating human engagement with nature.

The Orchard Project is the only national charity dedicated solely to the creation, restoration and celebration of community orchards. Working closely with community groups in hubs around England and Scotland, the aim of the Project is to help to designing and creating new orchards that will last for decades to come.

Crossfields Institute is a Gloucestershire based education charity, approved by Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations in England) as an awarding organisation. The Institute specialises in the development niche qualifications for providers with a particular vision or ethos

  • Any learners who are interested in finding out more about this qualification should contact the course administrator Jo Homan jo@theorchardproject.org.uk
  • Any organisations wishing to deliver this qualification should contact the Crossfields Institute Director of Operations judy@crossfieldsinstitute.com 01453 808 118