About us

We’re here to help you learn to grow organically

Our experience and independence means you can trust us to be your guide on your organic growing journey. From beginners to seasoned growers, there’s always more to learn. theorganicacademy makes it easy to grow the crops you want by giving you just the information you need, when you need it. We’ll be with you every step of the way through the seasons.

We’ve spent over a decade teaching nationally certified courses in organic growing. Growers told us they’d like more practical help growing specific crops. They wanted step-by-step reminders of what to do throughout the year. You don’t want to submit long essays and sit exams. You want a fun course with professionally produced content to help you get growing.

So we made theorganicacademy to be the next best thing to having Bob Flowerdew come and live in your garden shed.

Books, magazines and websites are great sources of growing information, but they don’t remind you what to do throughout the growing season. We let you choose what you want to grow and then lead you through the whole process with reminder emails and just the information you need, when you need it.

It doesn’t matter if you only have a window box or balcony. Our courses help you learn by doing, and don’t assume you’ve got lots of money and a three acre small-holding (although it’s fine if you do)!

Why we’re organic

Organic methods are great for small-scale growers. While there are complex and heated debates around the question “Can organic farming feed the world?”, this isn’t something that’s critical for the home gardener.

At home you have the chance to build healthy soil, give wildlife space to thrive, and work with nature to produce your food.

Using organic methods gives you confidence that your food is as healthy as it can be while being earth-friendly. It can also save you money since by working with nature you won’t be buying expensive pesticides and synthetic fertilisers.

Our plans for the future

theorganicacademy will launch properly late 2016, so we’re just getting started. This is a long term project with the aim of being the best place on the web to learn about growing your own food.

We’re aiming to have courses on every conceivable food crop you can grow at home. Other topics such as composting, permaculture and soil health will be available too. Get in touch if you have suggestions four courses you’d like to see.

Unlike a paper book, being online means that we can constantly update the courses with the latest information and practical video guides. We’d love to get some of our gardening heroes to publish here too.

The site will be supported by membership subscriptions. This means there won’t be any advertisements and we’ll recommend the most cost-effective way of doing things. You can trust us to give you the best independent advice.

Meet the team

Tom Atkins

My journey with organic food and growing began over 20 years ago when I spent a year at the Organic Research Centre (Elm Farm) in the UK. With an MSc in Organic Farming from the Scottish Agricultural college and experience on organic farms in the UK, New Zealand and Scotland, I now live in Ireland where we’re lucky to have space for a polytunnel, vegetable garden and orchard. Ruth grows most of the vegetables here so you’ll see the fruits of her labours on the course pages too.

At the Organic College in Ireland I founded the Distance Learning program. Over 300 people have completed nationally certified courses in organic growing using the online course system I set up.

I love using computers too. I’ve been involved with large web projects for Edinburgh University, the Scottish Agricultural College and an online organic retailer. Open source software is very important to me. I’m an experienced Linux systems administrator and know how to make web applications. I think the development of universal access to the Internet is one of the greatest achievements of recent times. That said, learning how to switch off the computer and get out into nature is one of the most important skills we need to cultivate 🙂

Paula Pender

I have been involved in organic farming for the past 15 years. After completing a two-year diploma in Organic Horticulture at an t-Ionad Glas Organic College in 1998, I travelled overseas working on various farming projects. I spent the majority of my time in the Pacific Northwest area of the United States where I eventually leased an acre of land outside the city of Portland, Oregon. There I set up a small-scale organic garden specialising in growing vegetables, herbs and cut flowers which I sold through local food co-operatives, farmers’ markets and wholesale outlets.

I returned to Ireland in the spring of 2007 and put two acres of family land into organic conversion. I have been growing on a similar scale and establishing sales through the local farmers’ market and a weekly vegetable box scheme. I have also been involved in teaching organic horticulture though various courses organised by Teagasc and the National Organic Training Skillnet. I’ve gained an extensive working knowledge of all aspects of small-scale organic vegetable production.

In 2015 I completed a masters in Organic Horticulture at University College Cork. I’m looking forward to sharing all that I’ve learned with everyone here.

Emma Cooper

I am a published garden writer and ethnobotanist, fascinated by edible and useful plants and the benefits they can bring to us and the planet. I have always gardened organically – for over 15 years – and I love sharing my experiences with people who want to grow their own.

I have been an organic gardener for 15 years. I came to gardening through my concern for the environment, and when I bought my first house – and it came with a garden – it was time to tackle my Food Miles and grow some of my own food. From a few pots of herbs and vegetables on the patio, my first garden grew to the point where it had an enormous greenhouse, chickens and a miniature orchard.

I’m now two years in to starting a new garden, built from scratch and carefully planned to be everything we want in a garden. It has a patio for outdoor cooking and dining, sheds for storage and tinkering, and lots of space for the edible plants I love to grow. I blog regularly at The Unconventional Gardener and I’m a published garden writer: The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z is the story of how my first garden developed, whilst The Allotment Pocket Bible explains how to get, plan and manage an allotment.

In 2013 I completed a Masters degree in Ethnobotany – the study of how people use plants – and I now spend my days helping people to see the value of the plants, and how they can save the world.

Simon Blackbourn

I’m the lead web developer for The Organic Academy.

Good design and ethical web development have been at the core of my work for over ten years, developing websites and online systems for international not-for-profit organisations, focusing on usability and accessibility. I’m an active member and strong advocate of the open source software movement (this website is built with WordPress).

I have spent many years working in environmental and social justice campaigning in the UK, Romania and The Netherlands.

My balcony here in the Dartmoor National Park in rural Devon is ready for containers of salads, herbs and vegetables, so I’m looking forward to contributing to the balcony growing courses on here!

You?

We’re just getting started. There’s lots to do.

Perhaps you can see the potential of what we’re building here and would like to join us. We’re open to discussing fair terms.

Are you an experienced grower? Do you love writing? Have you got a blog or other published writing you can show us? Do get in touch if you’d like to join the team or help in some other way.