Exciting project will contribute towards flourishing community farming sector in NI

Cultivating Community Farming, a new innovative initiative, was launched over the weekend at the NI Science Festival in Belfast.

This exciting new support programme, funded by the Co-op Foundation in Northern Ireland, will accelerate the growth and capacity of community farming projects across Northern Ireland over a two-year period, with access seed funding to the value of £2,500 for each selected project.

Working with 10 early-stage community-farming projects, the CCF project will provide networking, mentoring, skills development and capacity building, all helping to contribute towards a flourishing community farming sector in NI.

Especially important at this time, when both the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have highlighted the importance of community access to and involvement with food, farming and nature.

Launching the Cultivating Community Farming Programme at the NI Science Festival's Sustainability Fair in Belfast were from left: Tiziana O'Hara, Director, Co-Operative Alternatives; Aruna Bahia, Funding Manager, Co-Op Foundation; Julie Hoey, Azora Community Farm, Edentrillick, Hillsborough and Jonny Hanson, Jubilee Farm, Glynn, Larne. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The main goal of the CCF project is to accelerate the growth and capacity of community farming projects in Northern Ireland.

As Northern Ireland’s first community farming venture, Jubilee Community Farm, in Glynn, County Antrim will jointly facilitate the project, alongside Co-op Alternatives, Northern Ireland’s only co-op development body, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise, in community-led initiatives formation, policy and governance and hands on advice from a community farming venture who have already been there.

Tiziana O’Hara from Co-op Alternatives commented: “The project is designed to support emerging community farms and increase connections for participants with other like-minded groups and provide opportunities for collaborative working.

“Jonny Hanson from Jubilee will give inside knowledge, helping improve understanding of community farming while Co-op Alternatives will help groups business models and the key aspects of the day-to-day running of an enterprise with impacts in the community, on the environment and the current economic landscape.

“We aim to make community farming a feasible and viable option for communities interested in land management and growing and for farmers interested in including communities in their model.”

Nick Crofts, Co-op Foundation CEO, stated: “We’re delighted to award our largest single grant to date in Northern Ireland to fund the ‘Cultivating Community Farming’ project.

“Community farming brings local people closer to farming, providing important education, improved access to sustainable food and ways to tackle climate change.

“Their collaboration with Jubilee Farm is a great example of co-operation in action and we look forward to seeing the green shoots of growth for lots of new community farms in Northern Ireland.”

Jonny Hanson, Jubilee Community Farm, added: “We will also host capacity building workshops and skill-share sessions related to farming, community development and enterprises.

“Site visits to similar projects including Azora Community Farm near Hillsborough, will add a real-time dimension and make participants aware of the nuances of community farming.

“In year two, measuring social, economic and environmental impacts have been factored in to help communicate the value of a community-farming project.

“Whether through owning, operating or eating, community farming offers an exciting way for communities to engage with farming and for farmers to engage with communities.”

More information on CCF is available on coopalternatives.coop.

Application forms are available on request by email [email protected] or Tel. 07858 317634.

The absolute deadline for application submission is 12 noon on 7 March.