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Incredible Edible Cloughmills

'Incredible Edible' is a network of nearly 50 groups across the UK and hundreds worldwide, who believe that providing public access to healthy, local food can enrich their communities. Incredible Edible Cloughmills is no exception! Cloughmills is a rural village in County Antrim, which has almost trebled in size yet received no matching increase in service provision. The group is managed by Cloughmills Community Acition Team whose mission is to improve Cloughmills as a place to live, work and play. Declan Donnelly is part of the team which established the Incredible Edible concept in Northern Ireland and works for Ballymoney Borough Council who are key supporters of the Incredible Edible Cloughmills. He is an active member of the group and shared with us the group's story.

What is the Incredible Edible Cloughmills project all about and who set it up?

"Incredible Edible Cloughmills is a campaign to reconnect people with each other, their community and the natural environment using food as the mechanism. It is managed by Cloughmills Community Action Team, a community development organization operating in Cloughmills, Co Antrim since 1999. The Community Action Team was established to develop and implement locally managed and sustainable solutions to social, economic and environmental issues. The group works closely with Ballymoney Borough Council on this project."

Why was the project set up?

"Initially the project was a community safety initiative working with young people aged 14 to 18 in an attempt to provide alternative opportunities in a rural community. Land was gifted by a local publican for a growing site. This site now contains 2 polytunnels, two sheds, cooperatively managed raised beds and 12 individual raised beds, managed by people from across the community and 2 hens – Pecky and Becky. Work at this location enabled the Community Action Team to bring people together and build relationships within and between generations. Experiences gained on this site prompted the group to look at how they might expand their activities and really begin to address food poverty and access to healthy, nutritious food. The group gained access to a former mill site of some 4.5 acres in the middle of the village and this now forms the centre of most actions linked to the overall campaign."

What are the aims of the project and who does it aim to benefit?

"The project aims to reconnect people with their community and the natural world. There are clear emotional and physical benefits from people connecting with each other and the natural environment. The group provides opportunities for people to learn about growing food, the skills around food such as baking and cooking and how to make food fun. Incredible Edible Cloughmills encourages a new relationship with the food we grow and the wild foods freely available everywhere. The project has worked with everyone from the very young to the young at heart. It works with local primary schools, young people and mature residents. Everyone is involved!"

What activities does the project get involved in?

"The group organizes growing courses and opportunities for people to learn about growing food informally. People have learned how to make jams, breads, cordials and chutneys. Volunteers are also involved in harvesting unwanted or unneeded fruit in the general area. They also host open days/nights as well as regular visits by other groups. Seasonal celebrations are held on site, particularly at Halloween and Christmas. At these events, people have an opportunity to try different skills and activities including apple pressing. It proves to be very popular with young people who enjoy not simply the crushing but also the tasting! They organize activities for young people through a Muddy Boots Club for primary school pupils and Eco Warriors dealing with teenagers. Ultimately they will develop a centre promoting sustainable lifestyles."

Which apple press and crusher are the team using and where are the apples from?

"The group uses the 20 litre Press and Classic Crusher A. Apples are sourced locally where possible or from within Northern Ireland. The group also bought cider making and harvesting equipment."

What positive impact does the project have on those it aims to help?

"Incredible Edible Cloughmills has revitalised Cloughmills and continues to grow and impact positively on people’s lives. It brings people together and offers an alternative reality. It gives people choices and they can enhance emotional and physical well- being by becoming involved in different activities, learning new skills or simply by having somewhere they can go to reflect. It is starting to change attitudes towards food, where it comes from and what we do with it. It is an open and inclusive project, nurturing those who need it."

What have the project volunteers gained from the project?

"Volunteers are gaining skills and confidence which in turn boosts their emotional and physical well- being, or happiness. They are given responsibility and therefore have an input into shaping how the project develops. They too gain from connecting with others and the natural world and for some, volunteering helps them to get to know their community and contribute positively towards the sustainability of Cloughmills."

Do you have any exciting plans for the project’s development or future?

"Yes, there are many plans for this project. As the former mill buildings are brought into use, there will be opportunities to further develop the choice of courses and activities. There are plans to introduce natural beekeeping onto the site alongside a significant increase in fruit growing and work around pollination. There are also plans to develop thinking and action around social and therapeutic gardening, using edible flowers and plants as the core theme."

See the Incredible Edible Network's website for more information about the network.

Starting up your own group

For handy tips on setting up your own 'fruit group' or Apple Day, including the juicing equipment you might need, see our Community Juicing pages.

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