A new ‘heritage horticulture’ training centre is to be set up on Bute thanks to a grant of more than £60,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Bute Heritage Horticultural Training Centre and Seed Bank, to be run by Bute Produce, will explore the rich history of Bute potatoes, develop a growing area for Bute heritage varieties, and provide training and learning opportunities to increase understanding of heritage horticulture skills.
The project, funded by a £60,900 award from the HLF, will enable local schoolchildren to be involved in research and practical activities, while volunteers will be able to exchange knowledge and receive practical training in the art of seed banking.
The project secures one full time position at Bute Produce and supports creation of four work-based training opportunities.
Reeni Kennedy-Boyle, general manager of Bute Produce’s parent company Fyne Futures, said: “It is a great opportunity for Bute Produce to develop further as a training centre for horticulture.
“We have supported many volunteers and employability trainees since opening. This project will take us to a new level by offering volunteering opportunities and work-based training that leads to recognised accredited qualifications.”
Ronnie Armstrong, senior horticulturist at Bute Produce, said: “I am really excited to be leading this heritage project, particularly learning about harvesting seeds to build stock of a local potato variety that is extremely rare – Bute Blues.”
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “This is an engaging project which will actively involve people in our natural heritage.
“Volunteers will have great fun while learning about Bute potatoes, their role in our biodiversity and how we can make sure they exist for future generations. HLF is delighted to be able to help people connect with the natural world.”
Bute Produce is one of several local initiatives run by Fyne Futures, the ‘sustainable living’ arm of Rothesay-based housing association Fyne Homes.
Opened in September 2009 and based at Ashfield on the southern edge of Rothesay, Bute Produce now operates a six-acre market garden and delivers employability skills for young people and the long-term unemployed, as well as selling fresh produce through a ‘Veg Shack’ on the site and a ‘green box’ delivery scheme.
The site also boasts a single six-kilowatt wind turbine which provides a small additional income stream as well as generating electricity for the project.
Bute has a long history of local food and horticulture production, dating back to the early 18th century, and several varieties of vegetables and ornamental plants have been developed on the island.
The new project will look at the history of Bute potato varieties, leading to conservation, maintenance and gain of information to facilitate the use of heritage vegetables and fruit now and in the future by growers, and at the knowledge and skills needed to successfully gather, store and cultivate heritage varieties and organically grown fruit and vegetables.
Local gardeners and farmers will be consulted on the history of varieties native to Bute as part of the establishment of the Bute Potato Library to document, store, preserve and grow varieties with strong connections to the island.