Walled Garden group visits Bute Produce

Updated: 17 September. On Wednesday 8th September Ardentinny Community Trust Directors made a self-funded visit to Bute Produce, Rothesay’s community garden. There, Project Manager, Billy Miller  and Horticultural Coordinator Chris Helm, took them on a tour of the garden, explaining how the project had evolved. They then kindly hosted a Q&A session with a view to sharing their invaluable experience.

The Bute Produce project is based on the following guiding principles:

– health
– education
– social values & social inclusion
– environment
– employment
– affordability

The site is a 6 acre field which was provided under licence by Mount Stuart Trust and the project is currently funded by The Scottish Government; GRAB Trust; Mount Stuart; HIE; LEADER; Community Energy Scotland; Fyne Futures Ltd.; European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development ; and Natural Scotland together with their various and growing income streams.

The project had not planned to earn an income for the first three years but they were happy to report that in this, their first year, they have made £15,000. This has been due to their sale of fresh, organic produce at affordable prices direct from the community garden and their popular Green Box scheme of a box of mixed veg being delivered to households on a weekly basis.

Interestingly, both the Bute and Islay projects recognised the value in growing and selling strawberries from the outset, with Billy citing a potential revenue of £6.000 from a polytunnel of strawberries grown on wires. However, selling healthy, affordable produce is not the sole aim. They are committed to all their guiding principles. They are heavily into re-cycling, supported by the Grab Trust who have donated a composter called the Rocket and they collect and compost the waste from the nearby school and college campus, preventing it from going to landfill.

Horticulturalist Chris is passionate about the educational aspects and ensures that the vegetables they grow are not only tasty and nutritious but colourful, thus encouraging children to pick, eat, and eventually grow their own. He has designed areas of the garden for children with special needs and indeed the overall design of the garden allows for the less able of all ages to visit and participate as much as possible.

The addition of a Proven Energy wind turbine, affectionately named ‘Jenny’ the generator,  provides the garden’s energy needs plus an annual income of £5,000 from the grid.  Their use of biodiesel for the project’s vehicles is another contributor to lowering costs and greenhouse gases.

With regards to education and employment, the project also makes a significant contribution. It has integrated with many of the Bute link projects to ensure the social inclusion of all members of the public. 80% of their trainees in the first year were later successfully employed within organizations and businesses on Bute and this coming year they aim to train and support an additional 15 trainees on-site based on a 13 week work plan schedule. There is also a small income from this activity, averaging at £2,000 per trainee.

Other revenue streams are, e.g., Friends of Bute Produce who hold fund-raising social events and the Ferry Berry club aimed at 3-9 year-olds who receive a membership pack, newsletter and dedicated workshops to educate and learn about food miles and the benefits of growing locally. This year there are plans to progress to the remaining three acres of the site and plant an apple orchard with the help of a John Muir Award. Other parts of the site will enable trainees to experience agricultural training as opposed to market gardening.

While no two community gardens are the same, the experience of visiting and learning from the Bute Produce Project  has undoubtedly been a valuable one.

Download Bute Produce promotional leaflets (pdf 495kb).

Ardentinny Development Trust would like to thank Billy Miller and Chris Helm of Bute Produce for their kind hospitality.

Bute visit in Dunoon Observer (pdf 157kb).

Read about the visit at the National Rural Network.

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