The Programme

Defence Gardens Scheme (DGS) works in partnership with veterans’ charities, military units, community mental health service providers and gardening projects to develop, deliver and evaluate nature-based therapy across the UK. It is a ten-week, evidence based, horticultural programme that runs for one day a week, for four hours per day. On hand is a horticultural expert and a horticultural therapist. All sessions cover a balance of practical gardening skills and physical, cognitive, social, and emotional, therapeutic outcomes.

Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC is a social enterprise that helps individuals on the fringe of society to develop their skills to become self-employed.

Entrepreneurs Unlocked was commissioned by DGS in 2021 to develop and provide the Defender to Entrepreneur (DTE) programme. This is a programme of remote support to military veterans across the UK, who are in the process of setting up their own business with the purpose of providing support services, training, and employment opportunities.

DTE has been created for veterans who are all at various stages in their business’s development and focusses on a range of topics including how to secure funding, creating social media and marketing plans, developing a brand, and defining a service offering as well as how to register with HMRC and process VAT, if applicable.

DTE has been funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust (AFCFT) and both DGS and Entrepreneurs Unlocked appreciate this support.

The People

Matthew Price – Veterans Plot and Matthew Price Wellness and Coaching – Hampshire

Matt Price has always had an interest in horticulture, starting from spending time with his Grandad on his allotment, through to helping his parents with their vegetable patch. This continued throughout his 10 years in the British Army, whilst serving on multiple tours of Northern Ireland and postings to Germany, Canada, and the UK. During his time in the armed forces, and after this, throughout his career in private security, Matthew would take time out to visit gardens and estates wherever his tours would take him, from Basra to the South of France.

Matt said: “When things would get too much for me, my coping mechanism would be to get outdoors and whenever possible, to visit gardens. Upon leaving the military I had difficulties and for me, cognitive behavioural therapy did not work. My therapy is to potter about in gardens, and as soon as I am outside and surrounded by nature, the world is a better place.”

Matt Price joined the Defender to Entrepreneur programme to gain advice from other veterans in the initial stages of their business journey.

Matt said: “I was introduced to the Defender to Entrepreneur programme, and I found that speaking to people in the same position as myself, and regularly meeting with a network of my peers, has been invaluable. We all have military training, which has meant that our approach to business planning has been a similar one. We use our brains, as we have been trained in the military way, to create a plan of attack, and we bring this training and approach to our business. The Defender to Entrepreneur booklets were great too. We worked through them, and they have helped us to structure our ongoing business planning.”

Matt has set up his own businesses, Veterans Plot CIC and Matthew Price Wellness and Coaching.

Veterans Plot CIC provides horticultural wellness for veterans of the armed forces services, working side by side Matthew’s Wellness and Coaching Practice, providing ‘green care’ for veterans.

Matt explains: “I run my wellness days at a local agricultural college, and I am in discussions with a number of armed forces charities to roll this out even further. The veteran’s plot was started during the pandemic, initially on social media, as a safe space for veterans to come together to share advice on horticulture. I was able to take my Veterans Plot and the Wellness and Coaching Practice into the real world when I launched my first wellness garden’

“For me, ‘green care’ works for veterans, as if they are present and looking at a flower they are not thinking about their troubles. Also, in gardens, there are not any triggers for veterans. They can be present in the moment in a safe space, and can either enjoy the time on their own, or they connect with other veterans.”

Weblink: www.mattpricecoaching.co.uk

Ross Edwards – Garrisons Farm CIC – Swansea

Ross Edwards spent 23 years in the Royal Logistic Corps, he was stationed in the UK and Germany, and served on tours to countries including Sierra Leone, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Ross left the military and returned to Swansea in 2019, and within eighteen months of his discharge, and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment and the transition to civilian life, Ross was facing emotional and financial difficulties, relying on food banks to keep him alive.

Ross said: “After leaving the military I was down for a while, but then I got a dog, which made me get active. It was at this point, on my walks in the outdoors, that I had the realisation that I wanted to work with nature in some way, and that’s what led me down the path to develop my own farming network.”

Ross Edwards became aware of DGS on social media and reached out. He was invited to join the Defender to Entrepreneur programme and joined to connect with other veterans.

Ross said: “The Defender to Entrepreneurs programme introduced me to other veterans starting their own CIC’s and social enterprises and joining this network has been great. Working in a group format has really expediated the business planning progress and has helped to speed up the learning. The peer-to-peer support has been invaluable.”

Ross’s business, Garrison Farm, is an ambitious scheme to combine essential veteran support with the circular economy. Ross hopes that by giving veterans the opportunity to engage in sustainable agriculture in a supportive environment, it will allow them to adapt to civilian life whilst helping the planet.

Ross continues: “Upon leaving the military it became clear to me that I didn’t want to live in a ‘square house’, I wanted a new way of life, to live more sustainably and off-grid. From my own experience I knew that many other veterans feel the same, so now I want to extend this to veterans on a large scale.”

Garrison Farm is a social enterprise, and veterans will join us straight from the forces to work in green agriculture jobs. They will then receive a Garrison Farm badge, a qualification that will identify their abilities and help them to make a living.

Website: https://garrisonfarm.org/

Outcome

The Defender to Entrepreneurs programme provides the guidance, tools, networking opportunities and peer support for veterans looking to set up their own business in horticulture. The programme is funded for small cohorts of 4 throughout 2022. For further information and to register please contact info@defencegardens.org

Sally Coulthard, MBE CF FRSA, Founder and CEO at DGS CIC said: “The DGS project offers real opportunities for all members of the armed forces community to get involved in nature-based therapy. I am delighted that Entrepreneurs Unlocked and DGS have collaborated to introduce the Defender to Entrepreneur programme, as an invaluable addition to the progression options that DGS offers to the veterans that complete our 10-week programme.

“I want to thank David Morgan and Entrepreneurs Unlocked, for giving DGS veterans an opportunity to consider, and with David’s guidance, to work towards self-employment in horticulture.”

Founder of Entrepreneurs Unlocked, David Morgan, said: “I am proud to collaborate with DGS, to run the Defender to Entrepreneur programme, to support and assist veterans, who are interested in becoming self-employed, or who are at the start of their new business, CIC, or social enterprise”.

“It is an honour to learn more about the veteran’s community, and to offer tailored support and guidance to them. I am excited to see how Matthew’s and Ross’s businesses progress in the future, and we are already planning regular catchups to provide informal support and networking opportunities. With 3 programmes across 4 DGS gardens in the pipeline, I look forward to many more successful outcomes in the future.”

If you are interested in the Defender to Entrepreneur programme, contact info@defencegardens.org