A community farm in Bally-
money is one of 382 groups to be awarded £1.14m by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland since
launching its Coronavirus Com-munity Fund in March.
Origin Community Farm was established five years ago by four friends who wanted to create a space for rest and wellbeing and make a difference to those needing help in their local community. They were gifted a piece of unused land by retired poultry farmers Heather and Trevor Shiels which they cleared and then built raised beds, a polytunnel and introduced chickens and goats. The team is now made up of 10 people who run Origin alongside a team of volunteers.
Kenny Baird, Project Manager at Origin Community Farm, explained: “We started with the aim of helping those in need, which we do by growing vegetables and fruit and delivering packages to homes all across the north coast.
“We also support a project in Belfast called FarmBox, which delivers fresh food to refugees and asylum seeker families and we welcome these wonderful families up to Origin to help grow food each year. It has been fantastic to see an unused piece of land transform into a busy and productive growing space which feeds hundreds of people.”
With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, the demands on Origin quickly escalated.
Kenny continued: “When coron-avirus hit, we began receiving loads of requests for food, support and connection. Our community jumped into action. We offer daily phone calls to people who need connection, we cook food for anyone who needs it using the ingredients we grow and we deliver fresh produce to vulnerable people. We’ve been overwhelmed by need and in stepping up to respond to that we knew we needed to scale up our production of vegetables.
“This increased demand required major financial and time investment so we are able to grow more food now and prepare for a big harvest in months to come, as the need will be long-term. The Coronavirus Community Fund grant has enabled us to purchase tonnes of compost and soil, thousands of seeds, build more raised beds and cook more food. It’s been brilliant – without it we wouldn’t be able to support the families and vulnerable, isolated adults who need groups like us right now.
“We are now looking ahead to how we build for the longer term need for healing after the isolation and providing food and support to many out of work or suffering from the impact of this virus and lockdown.”
Sadly, the team at Origin has been directly impacted by the pandemic, recently losing Trevor, who orig-inally gifted the land to Origin. Paying tribute to Trevor, Kenny said: “Trevor and Heather gifted Origin the land as they believed in the difference it could make.
“Trevor was a farmer and loved to share his skills with all our volunteers.
“He taught them how to plant trees, put in fence posts, care for chickens, build polytunnels and so much more. It’s a huge loss, but he leaves a huge legacy.”
The Coronavirus Community Fund was originally launched to support older people, however additional funding received from groups including DAERA (Department of
Agriculture, Environment and Rural
Affairs), whose contribution has supported Origin Community Farm,
has allowed the Community Foundation to widen its criteria to support groups helping people with mental health issues as well as vulnerable and isolated people. The foundation’s fast-tracked ass-
essment process has allowed qualifying groups to immediately start to support their communities and help the many people who are isolated, alone or in need of help.
Commenting on the fund, Siofra Healy, Director of Philanthropy at the Community Foundation, explains: “We are thrilled to have allocated this money to groups in such a short period of time. This is all about swift support and enabling communities, which is our focus via the fund.
“The speed and generosity with which bodies have responded to the launch of the Coronavirus Community Fund has been amaz-ing. They fully recognise our close trusted links with community groups and our ability to connect quickly with them and enable them to deliver funding where it can make an immediate impact.
“Funding enables applications of between £1,000 to £2,500 for organisations providing small scale
emergency support, while organ-isations supporting need on a longer-term basis, and/or are significantly enhancing their ser-vices at this time, can apply for grants of up to £10,000.”
Department of Agriculture, En-
vironment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots commented: “Our communities are currently dealing with the coronavirus in a very admirable way by adhering to the up-to-date health advice. However, by adhering to this advice many people, and particularly those in rural areas, are facing real issues of loneliness and isolation and hence the need to support them through funding opportunities such
as the CFNI Coronavirus Commun-ity Fund.
“I am very pleased to hear about this example of support for the people involved with the Origin Community Farm. The initiative they have developed provides practical support to those most in need at this time and also offers them the comfort of a nutritious meal and a friendly welcoming voice.
“Over the last few weeks I have seen and heard of many examples that reflect the great community spirit that exists in all parts of Northern Ireland and I wish to thank everyone for their tremendous efforts which highlights the inher-ent goodness that exists in our people.
“I would encourage other con-stituted community organisations to avail of the CFNI Coronavirus Community Fund and I am also encouraging organisations that have the advancement of religion included in their constitution to make an application to the CFNI for grant aid.
“While I understand the CFNI cannot make direct payments to such organisations, I have through a partnership arrangement between my department, the Department for Communities and the Rural Community Network facilitated the processing of eligible applications.”
n Groups wishing to apply for funding can visit www.communityfoundationni.org
Anyone wishing to donate to the Coronavirus Community Fund appeal can donate online at www.communityfoundationni.org or con-
tact the foundation at email@example.com