Vanessa Warn of Little Green Rascals Organic Day Nursery in York
"We need to respect the land in terms of what we put in to be assured of good stuff coming out for our children and their children."
Little Green Rascals Organic Nursery is the only organic private day nursery in the North – it has been open since July 2009 and provides care for over 70 children a day, looked after by over 30 staff. Their core aim is to provide the very best possible education and loving care within a warm, nurturing and natural environment. The weekly trips to the forest, art and drama as well as French and sports support this. Healthy bodies are an important part of their mission too - the children eat wholesome organic foods and drinks. The nursey holds our Gold Catering Mark – all of the meals are prepared from scratch in their kitchen using ingredients from their kitchen garden. Babies at the nursery never eat from a jar or packet, as all of the baby food is prepared freshly on-site each day. The children learn how to prepare healthy meals through the in-house organic cooking and gardening programme, promoting a healthy diet for life from an early age.
Can you give a short history of how you got to where you are now, including why and when you 'went organic'?
I have always wanted to set up a children’s nursery – I am passionate about children and their care. I was very frustrated when looking for childcare for my own three children that nothing mirrored how I looked after them and I was always going to have to compromise with regards to their care and the food they ate. It was from this that the idea for Little Green Rascals emerged. With the support of a friend who let me rent his farmhouse and the financial backing of a business partner, the seed grew into a fantastic tree!
I wanted our parents to have the security of knowing that we were 100% committed to our ethos and it was not a gimmick. We applied for and achieved the Gold Catering Mark which gives us the kudos of being instantly recognised and impressive to parents, as well as giving us the seal of approval that confirms we are stringently audited to confirm we do what we say. It also makes our staff proud to work at Little Green Rascals – we are all delighted that we achieved the Catering Mark and feel that all the hard work and dedication has been rewarded. I now own the business totally myself and it is like my little bit of paradise – the response has been fantastic and I am hoping to open more in the future!
Organic principles - why do they matter?
They matter not just for the here and now but for future generations. I firmly believe in getting out what I put in – we need to look at the bigger picture with regards the earth and not just concentrate on our little piece of home. We need to respect the land in terms of what we put in to be assured of good stuff coming out for our children and their children.
What does the Soil Association mean to you?
A stamp of honesty and ethics – a leading light to be trusted with regard to research, advice and awards.
What is your greatest achievement at work?
Opening – it was and still is a dream come true! Something I have wanted to do for such a long time – have a nursery that mirrors how I live my life at home but on a much larger scale! And have it appreciated by others.
What do you love most about what you do?
Meeting all the new families and working with them and all my staff to ensure their children are loved, stimulated and incentivised – knowing that they are being given the best foundation to start in life – all supported by solid green and organic ethics.
What's the main benefit of being organic for you?
Nurturing our nursery children – from birth to 8 years – knowing that they are getting the best – no compromise!
How do you plan to progress in the future? What is your vision?
Another four nurseries in the North then franchising nationwide – with a head office to ensure quality, training and a solid environmental ethos.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My husband of 20 years x
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Work hard and don’t take no for an answer – anything can be achieved and there is no such thing as standards that are too high.
When were you happiest?
Having each of my three fabulous children
What is your favourite word?
It's three actually – ‘not a problem’
What would be your 'Desert Island' luxury?
Nelsons Calendula ointment – known as the ‘magic’ cream in our house – cures all ailments!
What is your favourite meal?
Italian cooking – yumsk!
What keeps you awake at night?
My rascal Korat cats!
Any unusual hobbies or past careers?
What single thing would most improve your life?
I'd like to be remembered for...
Changing the way nurseries view feeding children – making sure that each nursery is bronze, silver or gold in the Food for Life Catering Mark – ensuring that it is a social exercise – one to take time over and enjoy.