A project in the Derry City and Strabane district that will see over 250 families learn to grow their own food has received a significant boost after Ireland’s largest organics recycling firm donated all the compost required for the initiative.

Natural World Products (NWP) processes household food and garden waste from local authorities across Northern Ireland – including Derry City and Strabane – converting it to organic, peat-free compost.

The premium, high-demand soil conditioner has been donated to the ‘I Can Grow’ project, led by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and delivered in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, The Conversation Volunteers and University College Cork.

NWP Chief Executive Colm Warren, a native of Derry City, said:

“Supporting community projects is critical to the ethos of this business and is one of the most rewarding parts of our work.  This initiative is one of the larger scale community schemes we are currently involved in.

“It’s clear there is a huge appetite from people in the Derry and Strabane area to not only gain a better understanding and appreciation of how to grow their own produce but to better understand what happens to their household food and garden waste when it is discarded via their Brown Bins.

“It is incredibly fitting that the very compost the families will use in the ‘I Can Grow’ project has been made using discarded household organics from within their own locality, perfectly representing a truly local circular economy in action.”

Families participating in the project that will run over two growing seasons, will receive mentoring from the Council’s horticulturalist and a team of conservation volunteers.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Brian Tierney, said: “The I Can Grow project is a fantastic initiative for anyone keen to reduce their carbon footprint and do their bit for the local environment. Council is strongly focused on the creation of a circular economy so we can convert waste into a valuable environmental resource that can be utilised to develop more sustainable approaches to food production and the planting of our green spaces.

“I want to thank Natural World Products for supporting this scheme alongside our partners in the Community Foundation, The Conversation Volunteers and University College Cork. This collective approach makes the introduction of sustainable environmental practices much more achievable. The response from local people has been phenomenal and a real indication that we are all thinking more about the environment and the wide-ranging benefits of making small lifestyle changes that will improve the health and wellbeing of everyone.”

Shauna Kelpie, Acorn Fund Development Officer at the Community Foundation said:

“We want this project to start a wider conversation around the sustainability of our food and educate local people about where our food comes from, how it’s grown and how its carbon footprint contributes to climate change. We originally opened the project to accommodate one hundred families. The fact that we have now over 250 families signed up highlights the demand for projects like this, the willingness of individuals to ignite change, making those steps to become more sustainable and work towards tackling climate change.

“Not only does growing your own food help the climate, but there are also lots of health benefits too. Taking time to sow seeds, nurture and eat fruit and vegetables is so good for our mental and physical wellbeing.”

NWP processes over 200 thousand tonnes of food and garden waste annually, which is converted into high quality organic compost used by councils, agri-growers, and the horticultural sector across Northern Ireland and further afield.