Ballybeg Greens – Eat What You Grow

Ballybeg Greens is a social enterprise supplying locally grown produce to restaurants and the food service industry in Waterford, which also provides accredited training courses in Horticulture. We spoke with Sean O’Driscoll (Co-ordinator Ballybeg Horticulture Initiative), Billy Phelan (Tutor), Liz Riches (Manager Ballybeg CDP) and John Keane (Primary Grower) to find out more about the organisation and the work they carry out.

Liz Riches, Manager Ballybeg CDP

Liz Riches, Manager Ballybeg CDP

Liz explained how the project started: “Ballybeg Greens developed out of Ballybeg Horticulture Initiative, a project of Ballybeg CDP. The Horticulture Initiative provides accredited training to about 20 students every 42 weeks, funded through the Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board. From that project, we saw the need to develop a more sustainable business that could build on the skills accumulated by local residents going through that programme. The idea was to utilise space in the environment around us to develop a business that would supply the food service industry in Waterford, as well as provide accredited training in Horticulture”.

Sean added: “We are staffed by a mixture of community employment, volunteers, work placements, myself as full time staff member and tutors.”

Since they began, the project has had a positive effect on the local environment in many ways. Liz said: “In terms of environmental impact, what is now the garden was a dumping ground, and is now a vibrant working space. We have a community garden where local people can rent allotments. I think we’ve reintroduced the idea of growing, that people can learn to grow their own food, which in turn has an impact back on their own pocket.”

In addition to growing speciality vegetables and herbs, they also run training courses in Horticulture.

“As Ballybeg Greens, we run accredited and non-accredited training courses. Because Ballybeg CDP is a FETAC-accredited centre, we have validated a number of Horticulture programmes ourselves that we can then offer to other community or special needs groups, including Skillnets, WAVE and Focus Ireland. We do the training under the ETB, but then also private training under Ballybeg Greens,” Liz said.

“We have also worked with Youth Reach, Youth Train, Waterford Leader, UaCasaidh, THROW, St. Paul’s community school, New Street Gardens, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Probation Service,” Sean added.

Two years ago, they started the Family Growing Project, which taught parents how to grow, and in turn transfer their skills to their children. It has proven very successful and they are currently in St. Saviour’s school training 20 children and their parents. The focus is on nutrition and cooking with what they are growing themselves.

A Ballybeg Greens allotment.

A Ballybeg Greens allotment.

“Last year we worked with Barnardos with families on the HSE Cook It programme and cookery classes with chef Owen Power. This year, we’re in this school developing the garden with them and the parents are again doing the programme. Students have been going into WIT to the Culinary Arts school to do practical cookery classes. It’s about introducing people to the whole cycle of food; growing, cooking and then eating what you grow,” Liz explained.

Additionally, Ballybeg Greens have worked with other local organisations on specific projects. One of these being the creation of a sensory garden for Killean resource centre.

“We did it as a project with Annette Breen, another tutor here. They were very happy with it and we’re delighted they are getting good use out of it. It’s a path with a circle and a sundial in the middle with four beds on the outside. The beds are 3ft high, the same height as wheelchairs, so they are accessible. We have a drainage system in each to prevent flooding,” explained John.

“It was comprised of sensory, edible plants. The lads took it on as a project during their FETAC level 5 and it ran over the length of the course. They all came back and finished out the project voluntarily. It looks very well and they’ve put a lot of work into it,” Sean added.

Ballybeg Greens were also recently nominated for the Waterford Business Awards and won under the Community and Social Enterprise category.

“We were shortlisted against Waterford Healing Arts Trust and GIY Ireland. We’re very pleased for the recognition we get just for being shortlisted, but I think what’s really important is promoting the positive side of Ballybeg, which is hopefully going to be aided by going forward for these awards, so that there will be some positive media focus on Ballybeg and recognition of the hard work, innovation and skills inherent in this community. We wish our competitors well, obviously, and we thank the Chamber very much for the recognition that this gives to us and to Ballybeg,” Liz said.

“I started on level 5 in 2010. Then, 90% of the staff were brought in. Now, 90% of the staff have come through Ballybeg. With being nominated for the award, when that’s happening with people who have come through the programme here, it means even more because it’s lads who have come through the system, who have gone on to volunteer or tutor and are now tutoring the new groups coming through,” Billy added.

Ballybeg Greens can be contacted on 051-350-100, on Facebook (Ballybeg Greens) or the Ballybeg CDP website (www.ballybegcdp.ie).

Ballybeg Greens Interview on Youtube

Seamus Hanley

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