Tom is Committed to Growing & Learning
Growing Together Cornwall CIC's founder, Tom Knight, has been known to 'mansplain'.* In his defence, he says he is genetically predisposed to this unfortunate trait because his dad, Dave, practically invented it. In fairness, Dave is an outstanding gardener and Tom would like to think this too has rubbed off a little.
Growing up in rural Worcestershire, near Evesham (the fruit basket of England) Tom's first words were, "Pretty flowers!" He has been a keen gardener all his life and has had the privilege to garden in places as far-flung and exotic as Malawi, China and most recently Cornwall. Tom created Heritage Gardeners because he believes in growing together.
The son of two teachers, Tom has always had a passion for learning, and thanks to some outstanding mentorship from his mum and dad, not to mention some exceptional teachers, he has always known that the best learning happens when learners have a true purpose,
"While I take great joy from learning, I have never been a big fan of schools, much less classrooms. It strikes me as daft to take humans out of the very environment you expect them to learn about and stick them in a box. Even dafter is the idea that the aim of learning is to get a letter as close as possible to the start of the alphabet."
Graduating from Froebel with a degree in education and theatre, Tom thought long and hard about what sensible job he should do and decided to become an actor and a pyrotechnician. Blowing things up to live classical music was anything but boring and working in theatre was joyful but as middle age crept up, Tom felt he ought really to get a proper job - cue a PGCE and a respectable career in teaching. Sort of. With some sense of rat-like guilt, Tom abandoned ship and travelled to Malawi to teach in an international school. The African soil was rich and the climate in Lilongwe was a delight,
"Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to have a garden full of mangoes, avocados and guava. The wonderful thing about Lilongwe is that the altitude meant we could also grow things like potatoes, onions and carrots. As for the flowers and associated wildlife and birds... ...It was a gardener's paradise!"
After Malawi, Tom and his family moved to China. The climate of Beijing swings rapidly between freezing desert and sweltering sub-tropical fug. Living in a traditional style courtyard house meant gardening had to be scaled down but it was no less enchanting. Magnolia, wisteria, honeysuckle and clematis all contributed to a heady atmosphere in the suntrap courtyard. Even in the populous city of Beijing Tom met some extraordinary wildlife in his garden, notably a caterpillar with a sting like a wasp and wasps with no sting at all,
"Honestly, growing in Beijing was challenging at times. The winters were brutal and it was hard to imagine anything surviving. There were casualties, not least my pride, but there were lessons to be learned and great teachers - not least the environment itself!"
After nearly 15 years overseas the Knight family decided to return to the UK and made the decision to come to Cornwall where Tom is able to fulfil yet more dreams. Growing Together Cornwall CIC brings together at least two of Tom's passions: gardening and learning. Just for good measure, living in St. Agnes means he is also able to fulfil a lifelong dream to join the crew of the RNLI. If you happen to be growing with Tom and he disappears - don't be offended, he's probably on a shout!