What's been happening with Incredible Edible Cloughmills in Northern Ireland

27th Mar 13, Declan Donnelly

Last year, almost 400 people came to visit us, so 'veg tourism' is fast becoming a marketing tool!  About 300 of these visitors had lunch in the village so others are seeing benefits too. 

We are really happy about the range of age groups we involve and our relationships within and beyond our community. 

We are fast becoming a group with a reputation for 'doing' and not just talking and that is great.  The best thing of all for us is the simplicity of what we do and how this resonates with people from all ages and backgrounds. 

It has taken us on the most amazing journey from growing to using to looking at wider issues of biodiversity and chemical use in our homes and community.  Incredible Edible Cloughmills is more relevant now than it was 4 years ago, so what will it be like in 4 years time... 

What we've been up to...

The last two years have been exhilarating, demanding and above all rewarding for Incredible Edible Cloughmills.  This is a very brief summary of what we have been up to:

All these many positive things prove that the Incredible Edible message is a simple one but also one which ripples across communities in so many ways.

During this time we have picked up some awards, got some money but more importantly, we have started to really engage people’s imaginations and for us that is the crucial thing. At last, people are starting to have conversations about ambitions, visions and possibilities and from these we draw our enthusiasm and desire to keep moving and opening doors.

People’s Millions

Like IET, we managed to pick up some funding through this scheme, galvanising about 9,000 votes in the process! We used this money to begin the revitalisation of a 4.5 acre derelict mill site in the village. What once lay idle now boasts 2 large polytunnels, sheds, many raised beds, edible hedges, composting toilet, reed bed system for grey water and our yurt.

The site is managed following Permaculture principles and we have lofty ambitions to add an orchard, coppices, wildflower strips and access to the river. This is in addition to our original site which continues to flourish. In the last 12 months, nearly 400 people have come to visit and 300 of these have had lunch in a local restaurant so ‘veg tourism’ is here too.

Village SOS

On the back of the People’s Millions, we hatched even more plans and here is a great example of giving people space to come together, over a cuppa and imagine…4 men sat in a shed one day and talked about all sorts of things. One mentioned an interest in brewing at home, another also did this and within the space of 40 minutes the idea of a community owned micro brewery was born. 18 months later, the brewery is in place and the first batch of Old Mill ale has been bottled.

The brewery is portable and will be used for training initially. It was one of the projects we got support for through Village SOS and we will also be growing mushrooms with a group of young people consigned to the scrap heap by society but we know their value and through this we hope they will come to know it too. They will be learning marketing and trading skills in the process and ultimately taking a market stall in a big market in Belfast. It’s very exciting really.

Community Food Initiative/Healthy Food for All

We have just found out we have been accepted on to a 3 year food demonstration programme which looks at access to healthy food for all. The focus will be divided between increasing the numbers of people growing and places where food is grown and the skills around using food. We will be working with schools, retailers, farmers, food producers and anyone who will listen to us. This is an all Ireland programme with 10 groups selected, 3 in NI and 7 in the republic. More details on this later.

Magic Mill Open Day

What a day this was, back in August, with 400 people attending and no power of any description in use on the day and who said you need bouncy castles for a good time! We wanted people to start thinking about the skills we will need to make the world a better place and it worked, we witnessed a massive level of interest in some of our ideas, people laughed, children played in a heap of soil, some made herbal tea straight from the plant and most importantly a 73 year old woman said it was the best day of her life and that’s why we do what we do.

Countryside Alliance Awards

This awards scheme has been going for a while and recognises the work and enthusiasm of rural groups, shops and enterprises. It's organised on a regional basis throughout the UK and Ireland[north and south]. Incredible Edible Cloughmills won the Ireland regional award for Rural Enterprise and went on to the national awards in the House of Lords on 13th March.   Although not declared overall winners in their category and unable to attend this prestigious event, Cloughmills CAT were Joint Highly Commended which ultimately means they finished in the top 3 rural enterprises in the UK and Ireland and all this in a year when there were 4,500 nominations in total.  The judges said:

‘’The small village of Cloughmills is to be commended for community spirit, willingness to embrace new ventures and their desire to improve their own quality of life and that of their neighbours. The enterprise displays a great selflessness that should be aspired to."

This was a big honour and we are grateful to the Countryside Alliance for organising the scheme.

National Trust Octavia Hill Awards

We entered Patrick into this awards scheme, last year was the first year. He was in the Growing Hero category and again this covered the whole of the UK. He was the only entrant from NI in this category and we were really proud when he won the overall award. He is the heartbeat of IEC and deserves this for his work over the last 15 years or so.

Observer Ethical Awards – Unsung Hero

We entered Patrick in this and couldn’t believe it when he was selected as one of the final three in the whole of the UK. Although he didn’t win the award, it was significant recognition on a national level for what he does and the impact it makes.

European Week for Waste Reduction

This scheme operates annually across many European countries. Last year we picked up the community award for our efforts around reducing food waste and this year we picked up the ‘Judges Favourite’ award for our ‘Reskilling’ activities designed to reduce food, packaging and chemical waste. We ran 4 workshops on making bread, jam, natural cosmetics and natural Christmas decorations/non alcoholic punch. All were booked out with intense demand for more.