YM aims for self-sufficiency

YM manager Val Cooper at the Strathmore Place garden that the youngsters wish to take over.
YM manager Val Cooper at the Strathmore Place garden that the youngsters wish to take over.

YOUNGSTERS at Montrose YM are set to get a touch of the Good Life if their latest self-sufficiency scheme is successful.

The group is aiming to get its own allotment up and running to provide home-grown fruit and vegetables for its successful community cafe and has applied to lease an area of ground at Strathmore Place for the purpose.

The application was due to be considered by Angus Council’s neighbourhood services executive sub-committee on Wednesday. The land was formerly occupied by the Angus Mental Health Association’s Motivators Angus Community Garden Project but has lain vacant since last year

If the lease is granted, the 3,000 square foot site will be used not only as a horticultural resource but also an educational one promoting healthy eating and providing hands-on gardening and landscaping experience.

YM manager Val Cooper said the youngsters themselves arrived at the idea after a discussion about gardening.

She said: “Some of the schools have gardens and some of them mentioned the community cafe, suggesting that we could grow our own veg and it just snowballed from there.

“The problems was finding somewhere in close proximity to the YM where we could almost base ourselves during the good weather. We thought this site would be ideal.

“It’s an opportunity for a whole lot of different age ranges to get involved and get their hands dirty.”

The cafe was started around 18 months ago as a means for the YM to compensate for the loss of some of its grant funding, which dried up as a result of the recession. Open two days a week, the cafe has turned out to be a resounding success and all the money it makes is channelled back into activities for the young people.

It has also allowed the YM to work with Montrose Academy in providing a 10-week cooking and hospitality course for pupils which also includes budgeting and money management. Val said the step to cultivating its own produce was a logical one which will open up further opportunities.

She said: “The kids are already drawing up designs and we plan to have vegetables and soft fruit as well as some flowers so we can pick them and have them on the tables. I’m also keen to have a strong community element for those living nearby. I don’t want it to be seen as closed off and for the YM only. We’re hoping to have a wilder area as a bit of a habitat as well as a seating area which would be open to any residents who want to use it.”

The YM has worked with local councillor Mark Salmond, who is also a member of its management committee, to apply for the land and Mr Salmond also helped to put together a funding package with the council’s education department to help it meet the cost of the £300-a-year lease.

He said: “We’ve been looking at different funding opportunities and this is an innovative way of doing it. The kids are over the moon with the idea, they’ll learn particular skills too and we see it as a way forward to help ourselves.”