Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

UCC goes back to the soil with on-campus food project

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

UNIVERSITY College Cork (UCC) has become the first university in Ireland to grow their own food for use on campus.

College caterers KSG Catering has established an 8ac farm on the outskirts of the city which will supply fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to some 20,000 staff and students from September.

The 'Soil to Fork' programme sees crops being grown at Curraheen to serve 12 restaurants and a café on campus.

The micro farm is located on land owned by UCC, which was earmarked for future use as playing pitches.

A local farmer grows the produce on behalf of KSG.

Crops include carrots, turnips, parsnips, leeks, beetroot, lettuce and herbs such as rosemary, mint and thyme.

"The idea came this time last year. We're doing catering for the last nine years in UCC, and I happened to find out it had some land acquired in 2012 for pitches and it was lying idle," said KSG managing director Michael Gleeson.

"We've taken 8ac on a one-year rental scheme. We deal with a lot of growers and suppliers.

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"Some of the crop will be ready in mid to late August and we'll sell that in local farmers markets.

"The rest will be used from September and October."

"It's keeping everything local and Cork based," UCC's welfare officer Kate Quinlan said.

KSG said the cost of growing produce was on a par with buying locally.

"We have to rent the land and pay our grower," Mr Gleeson added.

"Overall, when we did the analysis, it's broadly the same (cost). We're an outlier, no-one else is doing anything like this. We feed everyone in Microsoft in Sandyford and have a little herb garden out the back. We've been doing that for a couple of years, but never thought we'd get access to land.

"Reaction has been great, from students and staff."

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