Digging For Victory: Veterans in our community

In honour of Remembrance Day, we’re shining a light on how local food growing projects are supporting veterans in Greater Manchester to eat and live well.

Supporting Veterans

Although most veterans find life outside of the armed forces easy to adjust to, for some it can be more challenging. Some veterans struggle with the transition to civilian life due to physical injuries, mental health problems or substance misuse.

Groundwork Greater Manchester have been supporting veterans into employment and with their wellbeing since 2017 through the Operations Re:Org project. Terry Morley, Veterans Employment Programme Manager, and a veteran himself, commented:

“I’ve worked with veterans for many years, my experience is that ex-military personnel are very hard working and resilient people. The people I work with often just need some extra support to build up their confidence.”

Last year, Groundwork started to deliver the Grow, Cook & Eat for Veterans project, which gives veterans the opportunity to take part in fun, informal gardening sessions, helping them to develop new skills and giving them the confidence to grow their own food. The session teaches skills such as companion planting, pest control and rotation of crops.

Terry is also a big believer in veterans taking the time to volunteer on local projects while out of work:

“It gives them new skills, it supports them with isolation, it helps them with their health and well being, and it creates that confidence again of coming out of the house and doing something”

Food growing

There are numerous benefits to gardening and producing fruit and veg at home or at an allotment. During the colder months, people tend to stay inside more, but gardening provides an opportunity to get outdoors into nature. Even by spending more time in the garden can reduce stress, improve moods and help people live a more active lifestyle.

For people who don’t have their own garden to grow fruit and veg in, there are other options out there. Manchester has over 40 allotments, run by a number of societies across the city many of which cater for certain ages, genders and backgrounds, so there’s sure to be something that will suit everyone’s needs.

We spoke to two people who have taken part in the Grow, Cook & Eat Sessions about their experiences growing their own produce, what they’ve learned and the skills they’ll use afterwards.

Meet Daniel

Daniel is a 56-year-old veteran who served in the military for 11 years. Prior to joining the sessions, Daniel had already established an interest in growing food, but he wanted to learn more.

“Through the pandemic, I wanted to get some beds built and start planting so I could grow my own stuff at home. What attracted me to the Growing Sessions was gaining some knowledge that would help me chose the right produce and growing conditions”

“Growing vegetables doesn’t have to be something that takes away the beauty of your garden. It makes it more rewarding doing the gardening and watching things grow. It’s really nice picking things for a stir fry you’re going to eat, everything is so fresh.”

Taking part in the grow sessions has helped Daniel in more ways than just sourcing food straight from his garden, he added:

“My physical health has improved since joining the sessions. I’m sleeping better, eating healthier and generally happier in myself!”

Meet Claire

Claire is a 47-year-old veteran who served in the Royal Navy for 10 years. She is the founder of the Trafford Veterans Community Allotment, which gives members of the veteran community the opportunity to grow their own fruit and veg.

The allotment is a green space where armed forces veterans can engage with each other and local volunteers in the area. Through the allotment, Claire was able to encourage others to take part in the Grow Cook Eat project.

“We managed to sign up 20 veterans to the project. We recommend that veterans get out in the open space, if they don’t think they’re that good at gardening, just coming down and having a cup of tea and a chat is also great. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved, there is still a lot to learn so when we grow something and can see an end result it puts things into perspective!”

Over the last few years, taking part in the allotment and growing her own food has helped Claire to relax and enjoy her community spaces:

“Being on the allotment as a whole helps me reduce stress, my shoulders seem to lower and I love being out in the space.”

Claire also believes that everyone could have access to food growing at home, adding:

“We could all be doing our bit to grow our own food. It’s easy to use windowsills for box planters to increase local growing”

You can find out more about the Trafford Veteran Community Allotment here – Trafford Veterans Community Allotment Facebook Page

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day takes place on Thursday the 11th of November 2021 at 11.00am. At this time, employees at Groundwork Greater Manchester will pause and think about the sacrifices service men and women from across the UK, Commonwealth and other Nations gave to allow us to live in the world we do today.

We encourage others to do the same. Find out more here.


If you’re a veteran in GM looking for support or would like to know more about projects supporting local veterans, email Terry Morley, Veterans Employment Programme Manager, on Terry.morley@groundwork.org.uk

Want to know more about what food is in season this Autumn? Visit our blog:
Shop Local: What’s in season this Autumn

Made possible thanks to funding from: