PLANS for Montrose YM’s community cafe to become self-sufficient are a step closer to reality after councillors agreed to lease it land as an allotment.
Manager Val Cooper this week said the group’s intention to develop the 3,000 square foot area at Strathmore Place has already received the backing from many nearby residents, who are keen to see the former garden tidied up and put to use.
Angus Council’s neighbourhood services executive sub-committee last week agreed to lease the land for the YM to produce its own vegetables and soft fruit and supply its successful community cafe.
The land was formerly occupied by the Angus Mental Health Association’s Motivators Angus Community Garden Project but has lain vacant since last year.
To kick-start the scheme, the youngsters and YM staff were on site on Friday to start clearing away some of the weeds and tame overgrown bushes and shrubs.
The site will now be used not only as a horticultural resource but also an educational one promoting healthy eating and providing hands-on gardening and landscaping experience. Local councillor Mark Salmond, who is also a member of the YM’s management committee, helped to put together a funding package with the council’s education department to help meet the cost of the £300-a-year lease.
The garden will also complement the YM’s partnership with Montrose Academy to provide a 10-week cooking and hospitality course for fourth year pupils, which also includes budgeting and money management. The intention is for it to have a strong community element and be enjoyed by its neighbours.
Val said: “We had a lot of people from around Strathmore Place in the cafe on Thursday saying they’re glad someone is taking it over and asking when we’re going to get started. The reaction has been very positive and one lady commented that it would be good to hear laughter coming from the garden again.
“We’ve started clearing away the weeds, but the project will be closed for the next two weeks so we’ll get started properly when we resume. The garden will be very much our activities for the rest of the summer.
“The kids are just so excited about it and have even started volunteering their parents to help us out and it’s just nice that they’re so enthusiastic.”
As the YM is starting the project from scratch, it will need help initially with acquiring tools and gardening equipment. To that end, the community cafe will remain open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during the YM’s two-week holiday where anyone with tools, seeds, seedlings and plants that are surplus to requirements can hand them in.
Val said: “I’ve told the kids that if they work really hard over the summer, before they go back to school we’ll maybe have a barbecue and invite the neighbours.”
She added that, weather permitting, work at the garden will continue every day during the holidays from around 2pm and any youngster keen can get involved is welcome to attend.