“I love what I do, it is my passion and I completely believe in it”, Jo Wright.
What is your job about?
We are twofold – we grow organic cut British flowers, and through that process we work with people in the local community who have learning support needs, mental health needs and disabilities. We are hoping to get the people back into work, increase their confidence, reduce their social isolation.
The flowers exist in their own right and producing ethical flowers is one of our goals but they are mutually dependent on working with the people. We wouldn’t do one without the other. It’s a supported workplace for people. Some have failed in the workplace so it’s a really friendly place that they can regain confidence and skills and hopefully go back out into the world.
What issues do you address?
- The un-sustainability of cut flowers as a crop
- Labour for the cut flower industry reduces life expectancy. A lot of people do not know that so it is also about education
- Involvement of people with mental health issues. Half of our paid team have mental health/ learning difficulties and its right through our organization from supervisors to managers.
What moved you to take action?
I graduated in 1995 and I specialised in therapeutic horticulture. I went round hospitals and nursing homes and did sessions of horticulture with people. That built and built and I decided I wanted a base for my business so I started running bigger projects where people could attend for longer. We always did horticulture, but it was never really commercially viable. In 2005 I went to a wedding and I thought we could grow all these flowers. I realized that Organic Blooms could really work. I now found a way to make it a unique product which is commercially viable.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
- One of my trainees who I am about to employ has bi polar. She had a catastrophic breakdown last year and came very close to committing suicide. She has brought herself back so bravely. She’s very competent. Mental health is so challenging for people.
- There are also obstacles from the systems that exist surrounding the benefit system because it de-motivates people. It’s very difficult for people to move away from the mindset and fear of moving away from benefits. I struggle with that a lot we have 7 or 8 people who are so close to working but they are scared of leaving their benefits behind.
What helped you keep going in hard times?
- The people I work with, they inspire me every day
- I love what I do, it is my passion and I completely believe in it
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
- I think my upbringing, I’m not from a green household but we always had holidays in Devon and I always engaged with nature. I just loved it. I grew up on a council estate so I wasn’t exposed to green a lot, but it was just in me.
- I knew from about 14 that I wanted to be a horticulturalist. My school said it was a waste but I said I want to do it. I love what I do.
- It’s not about your job and home life it’s about enjoying your whole life.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
10 – I just love it.