Ballymac goes to market

Claire Thompson (Community Garden Volunteer) and local horticulturist, Gareth Austin pictured insied the polytunnel at the Ballymagroarty Community Garden this week. (CG1002AQ01)

Claire Thompson (Community Garden Volunteer) and local horticulturist, Gareth Austin pictured insied the polytunnel at the Ballymagroarty Community Garden this week. (CG1002AQ01)

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Watch out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the people of Ballymagroarty are taking their fruit and vegetables to market.

The community garden in Ballymagroarty has gone from strength to strength in recent years and early next month the group in charge will take up a stall at the Walled City Market.

Claire Thompson, a local mother of three and she said that taking up gardening was one of the best decisions she ever made.

“I have scoliosis of the spine but getting involved in the gardening has been amazing.I help out with the local community garden but at home my husband has built me a few raised beds so I don’t have to bend down too much when working.

“As soon as I finish here I am heading back home to look after my tomato plants,” she smiled.

Local taxi firm, City Cabs, funded the construction of a polytunnel at the community garden site and in the coming months local residents will be able to harvest garlic, carrots, parsley, onions and scallions, to name but some of the produce.

The group in charge of the garden is called Springtown Activity Horticultural Society. The youngest member of the group is three years-old and oldest is 78.

“The whole objective of our wee garden is to promote a sense of community in Ballymagroarty,” said Claire.

“I actually bring my 12 year-old twin girls and my 10 year-old son down to the garden to help me out.

“The girls are sometimes more interested in their mobile phones but my wee son is always willing to help with heavy duty stuff,” she added.

Local horticulturist and North West Regional College lecturer, Gareth Austin, has helped the local residents to develop the garden and said that the decision to take their produce to market next month is a sign that they are moving in the right direction.

“Last year many of the community gardens in Derry produced excess plants and fresh produce, it seems natural to look at the idea of selling this excess to fund the respective gardens and the ongoing development of the gardens - that’s exactly what the people of Ballymagroarty are attempting to do.

“I took this idea to Derry City Councillor Brenda Stevenson and she suggested that the ‘Walled City Market’ would be a great shared space for the different community gardens to come together and sell their produce under the ‘Foyle Community Garden Initiative’.

“The response from Tony Monaghan and Shona Campbell has been nothing but supportive of the idea, Derry City Council has sponsored the cost of the stand and I think this shows how dedicated they are to this initiative.”

Gareth, who will manage the stall on March 2, said that he is interested to hear from other community gardens and encouraged them to get in contact.

“I’m delighted to be charged by Derry City Council to co-ordinate the stall. An invite is open to every community garden, centre and school to come on board and utilise this space to sell plants/produce and indeed any fresh produce to raise monies for their projects.”

Groups looking to participate can register their interest on www.garethaustin.com or phone 07506242774.