BY HELEN RIDDELL
PUPILS at Scoil Mhicil Naofa on Bere Island are using skills learnt in the classroom to run a successful organic garden in the school grounds and sell their produce to fellow islanders.
Principal Orlagh Ni Arrachtain outlined how the school had been growing produce on and off over the years in fish boxes, but earlier this year they decided to redesign their garden.
‘In February we built some raised beds, the aim is to have three perennial beds that are low maintenance and then three beds that we’ll try something different in every year, including more unusual vegetables. We currently have a crop of oca (a type of potato) which should be ready in the next couple of months.’
The school garden is fully organic, and the youngsters use seaweed on their vegetable beds, along with soil from a wormery in the school grounds.
‘The idea is to have a no-dig garden, but the children enjoy digging and it can be hard to persuade them to leave the shovels down!’ said Orlagh.
When the schools closed in March, the children were unable to tend their garden. However, Orlagh kept a check on it for them. On their return to school last week, she said they were delighted to find they had rhubarb, potatoes, onions and beetroot ready for harvest.
‘We had over 14.5kg of potatoes, the children weighed and bagged the potatoes themselves, and decided they wanted to make it all available to the islanders, so they displayed them at the school gate and came up with the idea of the honesty box. All the money raised will go directly back into their garden.’
Orlagh said the whole process of deciding what to plant and filling out the order form is part of their lessons. ‘Earlier in the year the children read through the seed catalogues, decided what they wanted to plant, then had to work out how much it would cost and what budget they had. They also researched what would and wouldn’t grow on Bere Island.’
The three-teacher school currently has 17 pupils. Scoil Mhicil Naofa is now the only school on Bere Island, which in the early 1900s had three national schools.