New College for Skibbereen, Co.Cork.

By Grainne Coyne

A third-level horticulture college will be developed in Skibbereen in Co. Cork, it was announced last week.

The location of Skibbereen Horticulture College was recommended by local resident David Puttnam last year. The MSc in Organic Horticulture is expected to be accredited by University College Cork (UCC) through the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, which was established in May 2010.

Liss Ard Estate was selected as the location of the college, due to its locally-grown artisan foods and eco-tourism elements being offered to guests.  According to the college it “will draw its tutors from those who really understand food production using sustainable methods and make a living from food production. Courses will be held on their farms and gardens to begin with until permanent premises are established. In the long term there will be a Community Farm and demonstration gardens, open to the public, around which the college will evolve.”

The only current qualifications available in the area of organic growing in Ireland are FETAC 5 and 6 certificates and diplomas. The only master programmes are available in Organic or Ecological Agriculture in the UK and the Netherlands but no programme specialises in organic production of horticultural crops.

According to West College of Sustainable Food Production, “Although there are horticulture courses offered in other colleges, Skibbereen’s West Cork College of sustainable Food Production will offer training for budding horticultural entrepreneurs who want to start their own business in horticulture as well as to those who want to grow their own food and make better use of their gardens.”

Mr Puttnam insisted that agriculture and horticulture “are two of a number of key issues which will be the drivers of the future in this area.” He highlighted the region’s assets and the development of a horticultural college as an ideal way of developing jobs and businesses.

The proposed programme would develop into the first organic horticultural crop research centre in Ireland, which would provide results of organic growing. The Horticulture College has been supported by the Carbery Enterprise Group (CEG).  The college said they “want to hear from anyone who would like to attend a course.”

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