Westergaards Planteskole (Westergaard’s Plant School)
SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL AGRICULTURE’S (SBA) INVOLVEMENT IN WESTERGAARDS PLANTESKOLE
Together with Lars and Bettina Westergaard, Organic Den-mark’s development consultant prepared a plan for how the additional construction can be prepared and financed. SBA financed advice services concerning the planning of construc-tion, project development as well as to investigate the options for bringing in financing for the capacity expansion.
A model was developed in the case to show how social jobs through Westergaards Planteskole can be extended to a group of other farming companies, each with one to two social jobs. On behalf of the farming companies, Westergaards Planteskole would be responsible for the cooperation with the municipality – a function that requires knowledge, insight and experience with the social-municipal area in order to succeed. In order to spread this model, SBA held an event at Westergaards Planteskole, where Kerteminde Municipality, neighbouring municipalities and farming companies were invited to participate.
Westergaards Planteskole has a written agreement with Kerteminde Municipality that the plant school operates as a social workshop. The agreement states that the plant school makes available at least five positions for vulnerable unemployed individuals in the east-Funen municipality. Kerteminde Municipality is responsible for referral, follow-up and support of the respective citizen.
Westergaards and Kerteminde Municipality are in an ongoing dialogue. At least once a year, a meeting is held with the municipality where the expectations for the cooperation are aligned and where the cooperation agreement is adjusted if necessary.
Bettina Westergaard supplements and supports the work functions with coaching meetings, garden therapy, yoga and mindfulness, depending on the individual citizen’s needs and wants.
Lars and Bettina Westergaard own Westergaards Planteskole, and since 2003, they have built a solid and growing customer base for their highly-specialised products, including climate-adapted hazelnuts, walnuts and figs. The operation of the plant school constitutes the majority of Lars’ income.
The plant school has the status of social workshop in Kerteminde Municipality. The plant school offers specially-organised internships and job capacity assessment activities, typically for five citizens at a time.
The municipality pays a fixed amount per citizen per week in mentor subsidy to Bettina Westergaard. Lars and Bettina hoped that, in 2017, they would be able to finance a 130 square metre multi-purpose building, with offices, bathrooms, lunch rooms and activity rooms, in part through fund raising and in part through self-financing.
EXPERIENCE AND LEARNING
Westergaards Planteskole achieved good results thanks to expertise, a professional approach to the operation of the plant school as well as to pedagogical work, and through a persistent and focused dialogue with the job centre and the municipality.
Collaboration with the municipality and job centre concerning the establishment of jobs on special terms at a farm typically involves knowledge of legislation, dialogue with case workers and the time to deal with the needs of the individual citizen. Tasks that most farmers would rather not have to handle.
In Socially Beneficial Agriculture, we want to test a model, in collaboration with a municipality, where a farm specialises in the dialogue with the authorities and acts as a protected “receiving farm”, from where the citizens can move on to a network of normal farms when they are ready (see diagram). We did not succeed in getting the municipality to enter into a dialogue on developing this model.
• Westergaards Planteskole consists of 2.7 ha.
• Bettina and Lars Westergaard are both employed full-time at the plant school.
• Lars grows berry-bearing shrubs and fruit trees.
• Bettina is an assistant at the plant school and a mentor to the citizens on an internship.
• Westergaards Planteskole is a social workshop for Kerteminde Municipality.
• 95 percent of citizens in an internship at Westergaard moved on to a more meaningful and independent life.