Volunteers break ground on new co-operative horticultural centre

Volunteer Janine Kennedy from Whiteabbey, Jonny Hanson from Jubilee Community Benefit Society and Joanne Crompton from Drumalis Retreat Centre at the first Community Volunteer Day
Volunteer Janine Kennedy from Whiteabbey, Jonny Hanson from Jubilee Community Benefit Society and Joanne Crompton from Drumalis Retreat Centre at the first Community Volunteer Day

A new agricultural co-operative has broken ground with a team of volunteer supporters on an ambitious new project to produce fresh produce for the local community.

A team of 40 volunteers began transforming an overgrown walled garden in Co Antrim into a thriving horticultural centre that will supply fresh vegetables to the local community.

Jubilee Community Farm co-operative in Larne held its first volunteer day on Saturday, January 27th - the first of a series of volunteer events on the fourth Saturday of every month to prepare the ground for vegetable production next year.

Family, friends, people from the community and members of the Drumalis Retreat House owned by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion met together to begin clearing the tangle of plants and weeds from the two acre site.

Jonny Hanson of Jubilee Farm said the first Community Volunteer Day had been a great success and looked forward to the next one on February 24th.

He added: “It was a really fun day, where lots of people came together to break ground and begin the task of transforming it into a space for people and nature to flourish together.”

The site, which was part of the old Drumalis Estate, had been a garden centre for 30 years before being closed a few years ago, allowing nature to take over.

The group is planning to have a trained horticulturalist starting in June so they can begin growing vegetables to sell to the local community.

Jubilee Community Benefit Society, which is an inter-denominational Christian creation care organisation, was set up as a community co-operative last year with the help of Co-operative Alternatives through the Hive Project, a UK-wide support programme for co-ops and community businesses.

More activities will happen at Jubilee Farm in the course of 2018. The farm’s goats and pigs are arriving in early February to also help clear the site.

Twenty households have already invested in the Pig Club by paying a monthly subscription, with each receiving a quarter of a pig by the summer.

The meat will also be used in the Hog Roast, part of the group’s official launch celebrations on June 22nd-23rd including live music, a range of walks and talks and other fun events. The event will also include a ‘Bio Blitz’ – a biodiversity survey of the original estate which includes the walled garden, the Drumalis retreat centre, and Larne Town Park.

By the end of 2018, Jubilee Community Benefit Society intends to launch a community share offer to call for public support and investment in this very interesting community and environmental initiative.

For more information go to: http://www.jubilee.coop/volunteer/