We welcome our regenerative gardeners!

2nd February, 2023
by Julian | 3 Min Read
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Barn 10 Nights Retreat

We welcome three garden trainees to Sharpham, who will be here for the next year learning regenerative horticulture techniques.

Sara, Dan and Emma have come to live and work on the Sharpham Estate because they were selected for a 12-month Level 3 traineeship course being offered by The Apricot Centre, at Dartington.

During this year, they'll learn regenerative land-based systems, working towards a Permaculture Design Certificate Qualification. This qualification has been generously funded by Devon Environmental Foundation, Vivobarefoot ‘Livebarefoot Fund’ and Devon County Council.

Our Trainees

Emma comes from Cornwall and has worked in gardening almost all her career. She did an apprenticeship in amenity horticulture at the age of 17, working for the council doing parks and ornamentals, then later she did a course in horticulture at The Eden Project. She worked as a gardener in a private school which led on to a post at a very posh London estate, where she worked in highly formal and ornamental gardens and grounds.

She took a year out after several years to consider her next steps in horticulture. And then the Sharpham/Apricot Centre opportunity popped up.

"What drew me to this that you don't use any chemicals and there's a whole picture - it's not just about what you get out of the land. Also am interested in food-growing because I've never done that," she said.

As for Sharpham, she's looking forward to when the veggies start happening. "Also, I've never worked anywhere that makes its own compost and uses it! I like the ethos of the place and getting to live and work somewhere so beautiful," she said.


Dan has had a variety of roles before coming to Sharpham. He has worked with young people, he's travelled and worked in international development, he's volunteered on farms and within alternative education places in India, he's taught English in Vietnam.

He's lived and worked in spiritual /permaculture communities including Findhorn, where he worked in the vegetable gardens there.

Gardens at Sharpham

"It's very different here - everything's so neat and pristine," said Dan. "This is my first step into more professional gardening. I'm really very interested in regenerative agriculture and I've wanted to do some formal study on it for a while".

He was planning to move to a remote Scottish island when a pal emailed over this opportunity. "It was like the stars aligned...and I'd heard that Totnes is a really cool place," said Dan.

Sara has taken the biggest leap - she left the screen-based world of TV and special effects to get out on the land.

"I spent 10 years in CGI & visual FX working in a dark room, doing long hours in front of a screen. It was very creative but there was no connection to the outside world or nature," she said.

"Naturally, I'm an outdoorsy person. I like the water, I like climbing and I like to be outside. My love for cooking and passion for sustainable growing attracted me to the traineeship."

Sara's dabbled in community and volunteer gardening. In the past she's shared an allotment and grown veggies at home but this is her first post in gardening.

So what does she think of Sharpham? "I love it! We're in a beautiful place to work. The people are lovely, it's a very nurturing atmosphere and community. I already feel a sense of calm from being here. Our gardening team are just lovely and I think we work well together," she said.