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Allotments funding boosted

Published: Mon, 6 Jun 2016
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Downpatrick Community Collective Allotments.
Allotments social enterprise
The Community Allotments in Downpatrick are taking self-sufficiency a step further.
The new social enterprise, which is located in the New Model Farm estate, was developed by the Downpatrick Community Collective to help sustain the allotments in the long term. It recently received a £1,000 start-up grant from our Social Housing Enterprise Investment scheme to purchase seeds, plants and compost which they will grow on to sell, with the profits being re-invested in the allotments to pay running costs.
Thirty four other local projects across NI are also celebrating after receiving grants totalling £363,000 for a range of social enterprise initiatives from us.
Aimed at building services and creating new jobs in local housing communities, the individual awards ranged from £500 to £50,000. The scheme forms an integral part of our new Social Housing Enterprise Strategy.
The Downpatrick Community Allotments, which were developed on land transferred from us, are used by individuals, families and groups from across Downpatrick, with communal areas enjoyed by visiting groups and during gardening workshops.
Ann Grant, Community Development Officer for the County Down Rural Community Network, said:
“We realised the on-going maintenance and insurance costs which come with running an allotment and community garden, needed to be addressed. Our social enterprise is being developed so we can grow seasonal vegetable and bedding plants for sale in the local community, the profits from which will contribute to the maintenance and development of the allotments. We were delighted to receive this start-up funding from the Housing Executive’s Social Housing Enterprise because without it the project would not have taken off.”
The allotment holders and groups using the site are keen to be involved in the social enterprise and are willing to help produce a range of summer and autumn bedding plants, hanging baskets as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables which will be sold at the weekly market. They would also be delighted to welcome more volunteers to the allotments to help out and learn more about horticulture as they give back to their local community.
Ward Erwin, our Social Investments Manager, said:
“I am delighted the allotments received this start-up grant. The Housing Executive is committed to building vibrant and self-sustaining communities throughout our housing stock and these investments are a valuable means of doing so.
“By helping address issues of employability, the environment and building inward investments locally, we hope that our tenants’ quality of life and that of the wider community will be enhanced.
“I’d encourage communities, their local organisations and others to apply for the next phase of the Investment Scheme when it opens later in June.”
The Public Health Agency has also supported the initiative by funding a poly tunnel. Barbara Porter, the Health & Social Wellbeing Improvement Senior Officer from the agency, said:
“The Public Health Agency has been involved from the early beginnings of these allotments, more so in the last two years, with initial funding to purchase the first poly tunnel and further funding to purchase a second poly tunnel to enable this new social enterprise initiative to develop.  Funding was also made available to train 12 volunteers to level one in horticulture skills which enhanced both their employability and work at the allotments.
“Community gardening is so much more than gardening. It can be complex meeting the demands and expectations of all involved but at its best, as we have seen time and time again here at Ballymote, it is about volunteers opening themselves up to learning new skills and gaining confidence as a result, it is about being outdoors and enjoying the benefits of physical exercise and fresh air, it is about having a garden full of fresh fruit and vegetables to be harvested and cooked at the end of a productive growing season, and it is about being with friends and making new friendships. I wish them well with this new venture which is their first step to insure sustainability for these allotments”