After being forced out of a Herefordshire village for attempting to teach young offenders horticultural skills, celebrity gardener Monty Don will finally start his prized project next week, as Rural Affairs Reporter Sarah Probert discovers...
Ask Monty Don about his love of gardening and like many horticulturists he is happy to tell you why he likes nothing better than getting his hands dirty.
But ask him about his latest project rehabilitating young criminals by teaching them farm-based skills and his passion is ignited and he launches into a tirade about the importance of offenders being given a second chance by their local community.
It is this incessant enthusiasm which has led him to persist with a project which, at one stage, looked like it would fall by the wayside.
Don was set to start the scheme in the village of Monkland in Herefordshire, but the local residents were far from happy.
They claimed it was not the project they were offended by, but the fact that Don and his team had failed to consult them before leasing an area of land.
The televison presenter was forced to search for fresh sites and now, after full backing from a village near Leominster, seven offenders aged between 18 and 23 will next week begin cultivating the land, caring for livestock and baking bread.
The chickens and pigs have been bought and a barn converted to house the offenders while they are on site.
A host of community figures have also got involved, with one offering to teach breadmaking skills, another giving farm tours and another showing the people involved around his orchard.
Don's plans are for the team to grow its own vegetables and sell them locally at a farmers' market.
He also hopes his passion will ignite similar projects across the country, including Birmingham.
"There is no reason why this project wouldn't work in places like Kings Heath or anywhere else for that matter," he said.
"The plan is to do this right across the country. Not me but local people - in the end they have got to do it themselves. It just takes a leap of faith."
Don, who has part-funded the project, is working with West Mercia Probation Service.
The youngsters - all are on probation but none have committed a violent crime - are from the Herefordshire and Worcestershire areas.
"A lot of people are getting involved in terms of showing people around their farms and someone is teaching them how to make bread and teaching them about orchards," said Don.
"The important thing is people who have fallen out of society can get back in and they can't go back unless society will have them.
"The important thing is to get rid of this 'us and them'. Everybody on this project is on probation - at the end of the day they can go home on a bus, they can go and shop in the same shops as us and they can go to the same cinema.
"It is no good washing your hands of people. It is a deeply responsible act and somebody has got to step up and do it.
"The other thing is about locality, people coming from the community going back into the same community and growing food to share with the local people."
Don, who lives in the Herefordshire village of Ivington, is reluctant to reveal the exact site of the scheme, not because he believes it is controversial, but to avoid unwanted attention.
"This is not done for publicity. It is not a programme that we have set up for a documentary about something. It will go ahead without any cameras or any press and while it is not a secret it is not something we will publicise," he said.
He also hit back at critics who believe taxpayers' money should not be spent on such schemes.
"It is much cheaper to stop somebody offending than to punish people for it. Taxpayers are saving vast sums of money - it is far cheaper to reform than it is to lock somebody away. Court appearances cost a fortune."