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Garden Organic, formerly known as the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA), is the UK's leading organic growing charity dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food.

History

The Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) was founded in 1954 to research and promote organic gardening, farming, and food. The charity was renamed Garden Organic in 2005 and is now the UK’s leading organic growing charity.

It was founded by horticulturalist and freelance journalist Lawrence D Hills and originally named after Henry Doubleday, an Essex-based Quaker smallholder who had a particular interest in the properties of comfrey.

The organisation was first based at Bocking near Braintree, Essexmarker hence the name of Bocking 14, a variety of comfrey bred by Hills for its useful properties. A sister organisation was also formed in Australia, the Henry Doubleday Research Association of Australia Inc.

Jackie and Alan Gear took over management of the charity in 1976, and in 1985 the organisation relocated to its present headquarters site at Ryton-on-Dunsmoremarker near Coventrymarker in the West Midlands. The Gears retired in 2004, when Dr. Susan Kay-Williams became the chief executive and the charity changed its name to Garden Organic. Dr. Kay-Williams left in the summer of 2007 and the charity appointed Myles Bremner, former Director of Fundraising at children’s charity, NCH.

Services

In 2008, the organisation celebrated 50 years at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement and to this day has over 40,000 supporters. It has trained over 600 Master Composter volunteers from around the UK to spread the home composting message and runs major research and international development programmes that help commercial growers across the UK and overseas adopt organic methods.

It actively campaigns on issues vital to both people and the environment including health, sustainability, and climate change, and helps children in over 15% of the UK's schools learn about food and organic growing through its free education programme, Garden Organic for Schools and through its work on the Food for Life Partnership.

Facilities

The charity's headquarters are based at its Garden Organic Ryton site in Warwickshiremarker. Here the organisation not only leads its charitable delivery activities, but also runs over 30 individual gardens in of beautifully landscaped grounds open to the public.

As well as boasting the world’s first public biodynamic garden, the site is also home to the Vegetable Kingdom, extensive conference facilities, an award-winning organic shop and cafe and the charity’s renowned Heritage Seed Library, which conserves over 800 endangered varieties of rare vegetable seeds under threat from extinction.

As well as Garden Organic Ryton, the charity runs a second site, the walled kitchen gardens at Audley Endmarker, Essex in association with English Heritage.

Audley End is a Jacobean stately home owned by English Heritage and in 1999 Garden Organic painstakingly restored its walled kitchen garden from an overgrown, semiderelict state using organic methods.

A demonstration gardenmarker in Yaldingmarker, Kentmarker, showing organic growing techniques in fourteen individual gardens was closed in 2007 after 12 years' development because of financial unviability, but reopened in 2008 under the ownership of Maro Foods.

Financing and membership

The charity relies on funds from its supporters and members to carry out its work and, in return, offers a quarterly magazine, members only web pages and information sheets, as well as access to the charity’s dedicated team of advisors who answer more than 5,000 organic gardening queries every year.

In addition, members gain unlimited free admission to the two demonstration gardens together with the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley, Harlow Carr, Rosemoor and Hyde Hall, plus over 20 other gardens across the UK.

Garden Organic’s patron is HRH The Prince of Wales. The organisation's President is Professor Tim Lang and Vice Presidents are Raymond Blanc, Thelma Barlow and Susan Hampshire. The charity reaches more than three million beneficiaries across the world.

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