The availability of locally grown fruit is likely to increase in Kintyre next year, thanks to a programme of tree planting linked to a new community orchard scheme.
On Monday 28 November, local MSP Mike Russell visited Tarbert’s harbourside walkway, where, accompanied by young pupils from Tarbert Academy, he planted the first tree of the Entire Kintyre Orchard project.
EKO is run by Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust, which Mr Russell praised warmly on several counts.
Between now and May 2012, EKO, which benefits from an Awards for All grant from the Big Lottery Fund, will see a thousand fruit trees planted across Kintyre, Islay, and Gigha, providing apples, pears, plums and cherries for community use.
Speaking at the planting ceremony, Mr Russell said: “…people who live here and people who come here…need to see a place that’s proud of itself, that’s actually projecting itself well. I’m all in favour of planting trees anyway – I used to be a Forestry minister. I think trees are great, and I think fruit trees are fantastic”.
He added: “But to get the young children involved, to get a public body like this involved, to make the place look good, to make the place feel better – it’s a fantastic achievement. We should all be doing as much as we can in a comparatively low-cost way, because this is not an enormously costly project. But….it takes away what was a bit of an eyesore, it creates a nice new path, and it makes the village look better. There’ll be a lot of people that come here and say “What a bonny place this is!” – and they’ll come back”.
Community Trust chair Ed Tyler explained: “One of the long term aims is to get more produce grown in the area. We’re looking at fruit as well as vegetables, but we’ve identified vegetables as the key because in the old days we had mixed farms and the farmers used to grow a whole range of crops. We’re trying to encourage them now to grow a range of crops again, so that they can be sold locally”.
Also involved in the EKO project is Scottish Orchards, an organisation which develops community orchards. In addition to supplying the trees to EKO, it supports the project by providing fruit growing advice.
Scottish Orchards’ chair John Hancox said: “In the past, people maybe thought that fruit wasn’t something that would grow here, but it grows very successfully, and there’s actually a long history of fruit growing in Scotland. There’s a lot of walled gardens and places like that around the West Coast, where fruit grows very successfully”. He added: “We also worked with landowners and farmers recently, to try to plant some larger plantations of fruit trees – to try to get some real fruit production going in Scotland again”.
Rev Catriona Hood, Head Teacher of Tarbert Academy, said: “The whole development of Tarbert waterfront has been to the benefit of the entire community. Of course, our school and our pupils are very much part of that community”.
Welcoming opportunities for the school to further enhance the community, such as planting the trees, she added: “There’s been a lot of tree planting and various environmental work going on at the school. We got our Green Flag just a few months ago. So, it’s a mixture of supporting the community on a wonderful development which has taken place here, and continuing the ecological work of the school……seeing where food comes from naturally, tasting food without any additives, just doing things naturally – it’s a good healthy message”.
Tarbert Harbour Authority chairman Alan MacDonald commented: “The Harbour Authority is delighted to have been able to offer space at the new amenity area for the planting of fruit trees, and is very much a beneficiary of this project. The new trees are yet another contribution to the work of improving the environs of the harbour, and the whole project is an excellent example of organisations working together”.
EKO project co-ordinator Jim Paterson said: “We can provide trees to schools, community groups, youth groups, and tenants’ associations, as well as to individuals”.
He explained: “Growing the trees will increase community awareness of fruit as a local food, and will get people talking to other members of their community. Any trees remaining, after we honour our commitments to organisations, will be available to individuals, who can contact me on 07500 677651 or via email@example.com”.