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From mushroom to market at Cloughmills

Published: Wed, 2 Apr 2014
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Chairman of Cloughmills Community Association, Patrick Frew having a cuppa and his own home-made bread in the yurt
Cloughmills Incredible Edible Mushroom Company
Teenage green-fingered enthusiasts are set to create their own funghi factory in the rural surrounds of Cloughmills.
Six young people will be skilled in the art of bringing mushrooms from plot to plate as part of the unique Incredible Edible Mushroom Company, thanks to our community grant of £2000.
The social economy project is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and is part of the community food initiative at the multi-award winning Incredible Edibles in the village, which has been running for the past two years on the Old Mill site, reconnecting the community and the natural world.
Cultivating high end mushrooms, such as shitaki and oyster, will add to the edible landscape at the project which also houses kitchen gardens, chickens, social therapeutic horticulture projects, baking and growing courses.
Or you can buy a pig, part of a pig, or even learn how to make your own beer, all under the roof of a fair traded Mongolian yurt!
The face of the project is local man and Chairman of Cloughmills Community Association, Patrick Frew, who said: “It’s a social enterprise project aimed at those young people aged 16 plus who are not working and want to get involved. We want to empower them with new skills.
“We have been looking into a project like this for some time and it was when we were in England that we came across a company called Funghi Futures, started by a young man from Devon. He was teaching people about mushroom growing and we decided that it was something we could take forward here.”
Over the next few months, a section of land will be cleared as Patrick endeavours to source shipping containers from Belfast Harbour, one to insulate and heat for germination and another for propagation. It will all be powered by solar power and a small wind turbine to heat the container enough to get the mushrooms to grow.
Six young people will be recruited annually to oversee the business as well as undertake budget projections and selling at markets. They will use spent coffee grounds and shredded cardboard to grow the mushrooms over a 14-21 day period.
Patrick Frew added: “It’s never going to be a money spinner but it’s about teaching the values and helping to educate these young people about what they can achieve in life. The kids will be close to nature and will come here and spend one day a week so the timeframes are also something that are achievable for them.”
The project also hopes to initiate a ‘Feel Good about Food’ programme promoting the social and therapeutic value of becoming involved in growing and using food.
It will target those who find it difficult to participate in community life through illness, family circumstances or other reasons. There will be day and evening or ‘twilight’ gardening sessions as well as open ‘drop in’ sessions where up to 100 people will learn new skills which they can transfer to the home environment.
A series of six week sessions will combine practical outdoor sills with creative activities like using recycled materials within the garden and cooking activities using an outdoor oven.
Environmental expertise and support is being provided by Declan Donnelly at Ballymoney Council and Liz Hanvey, Northern Ireland’s only qualified social and therapeutic horticulturalist, is also part of the project team. Funding has also been provided by Ballymoney Policing and Community Safety Partnership, The Big Lottery and the Ireland Funds.
Breige Mullaghan, our manager in Ballymoney, said: “We are delighted to have been able to bring a project to fruition at the Incredible Edibles project, which is already doing fantastic work. Funding this project will also allow those young people who are participating to learn horticultural and enterprise skills and the impact of this should be seen throughout the wider community.”