'Growing her own': the green-fingered Anna Greenland

Anna Greenland, 28, is passion about ‘growing her own’ and has won a place on a top horticultural course in America
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The Independent Online

"To me, there is nothing more magical than seeing the first seeds of the season poking through the earth," says Greenland. "Every year is different and filled with hope – you can forget any crop failures from the year before and start afresh. It's a constant learning curve.

"I love connecting with the natural world around me. There is something very healing and therapeutic about digging over a patch of land or getting your hands into the soil.

"I have no formal training in horticulture... yet, just hands-on experience. In 2006, I worked with a cooperative of organic growers at Buttervilla Farm in Cornwall, growing produce for Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Cornwall restaurant. I had to waitress in the evenings at Fifteen in order to support myself, but this meant that I was able to actually serve customers food I had grown. The dishes were always so beautifully prepared by the chefs, and seeing people enjoy my produce made the process all the more gratifying.

"I then joined the team at The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, working as a gardener on the vegetable garden and liaising with the garden's restaurant to ensure that the best was made of the produce in the kitchens. I also ran a small market garden selling organically grown cut flowers to Fifteen, a local deli and markets.

"I come from a long line of gardeners – my grandma is 87 and still gardening! However, it wasn't until I met Robert Hocking from Buttervilla Farm that I became totally hooked. I was really inspired by what those guys were achieving in Cornwall and wanted to be a part of it.

"I'm currently studying for my RHS Level 2 qualification – it's a great foundation to have when embarking on a career in horticulture. I've sort of done things back to front by working first and then getting qualified.”

Greenland has been shortlisted for the current round of Great Britons (for which public voting is taking place now), a programme run by British Airways to celebrate The London 2012 Games. BA, the official airline partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, is looking for people who need support to develop their talent in the areas of community, sport, fashion, performing arts, innovation, and art and design. The winners get flights to BA destinations anywhere in the world, and Greenland hopes to win flights to California so she can attend the University of Santa Cruz to study ecological horticulture.

"The course is highly respected and forward thinking. It’s also very competitive – there are only about 40 places," she says. "The students are involved in cultivating a 25-acre farm and three-acre garden, as well as doing classroom studies, so it's very hands on. The course has been running since 1967, and students have gone on to do some really inspiring things.

"I wanted to experience a different culture and different growing conditions, but the disadvantage is the expense of it all – that's why I've entered Great Britons. It is expensive to study abroad and a free flight would really help me.

"I plan to take the knowledge I gain on the course and teach others how to grow produce in a sustainable way. I hope to be able to work on community projects, training future generations in the practices of organic-food production.

"Growing organically helps to safeguard our environment for future generations. It revolves around cultivating a healthy soil, rich with nutrients and free from pesticides and artificial fertilisers. This, in turn, produces healthy crops, healthy people and an all-round healthier planet.

"By voting for me in Great Britons, hopefully people are acknowledging the fact that we need to take care of our planet and grow our food in a sustainable way. I feel very proud – and greatly encouraged – that others recognise the importance of what I am doing."