So many schemes and opportunities have been set up over the 100 years –
- the Employment Bureau - a bold and innovative step at a time when it was considered a daring experiment to employ a woman gardener;
- the Women's National Land Service Corps - which formed the basis of the Women's Land Army.
- an Outfit Department - supplying boots, shoes, overalls and breeches in small sizes not available elsewhere.
- a Smallholdings Project - where members gained practical experience of commercial growing.
- a Garden Apprenticeship Scheme for school leavers.
- the Careers Advisory Service.
- a Travel Bursary.
- and running now
- the Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme.
- the development of Specialist Activities,
- The Christine Ladley Fund – supporting members to further their education, learn specialist skills, travel and design projects to help schools and local communities
- and the latest project - The Garden Recruitment Network -
The Women’s Farm and Garden Association is a registered charity, founded in 1899 by women concerned about the lack of education and employment opportunities for women working on the land.
Membership was open to all connected in any way with the land, in farming, gardening and allied industries or those with a keen interest in these matters. Many of the founder members were professional women working in education, gardening, farming and small holdings. The Association set about establishing training courses and examinations, with an Employment Bureau offering a service for both employers and employees.
At the outbreak of the First World War a founder member Louisa Wilkins realised that there would be a shortage of labour on the land and the Women’s National Land Service Corps was launched offering work placements to women, both rural and urban. This movement was so successful that it soon outgrew a small voluntary organisation and was taken up by the Government and the first Women’s Land Army was born.
Between the wars there were difficult years of recession and the Association worked hard to improve the working conditions and status of women in land work and to open up employment opportunities to qualified trainees. The first training scheme in practical skills was set up during the Second World War giving valuable service to those seeking to work on the land. A Garden Apprentice Scheme for school leavers was set - this led to the development of Government Youth Training Schemes. Throughout this time the Association exhibited at many agricultural and horticultural shows, promoting the need for training and giving out information and career guidance
In 1993 the Association having identified a need for a training scheme for older students - as none existed elsewhere - established the ‘Women Returners to Amenity Gardening Scheme’. Designed to offer ‘returners’ who were considering a career in horticulture, training in practical gardening skills, within private and public gardens throughout the United Kingdom.
Since that first pilot scheme, WRAGS has enjoyed great success - and is now established as one of the leading training schemes, highly respected by the horticultural sector. In 2014 the name was changed to reflect the change in the type of applicants applying - Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme.