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Cill Ulta sowing the seeds for sustainable food innovation

Lárionad Acmhainní Nádúrtha LAN CTR (operating as Cill Ulta) is based in the townland of Cill Ulta, Falcarragh, Co. Donegal. LAN, or Cill Ulta as it is better known, is a centre for sustainable food, energy, research and Irish language preservation, not just for Donegal but the wider North West region. This social enterprise is undergoing significant transformation and building on its’ own legacy to shape its future path.

Cill Ulta Site - Aerial View

‘’The project initially began as a tomato growing enterprise in the 1960s. As oil prices grew, the value chain to export to Dublin began uncommercial, explains manager, Eithne Nic Lochlainn. In 2003, the existing community, re-established the site and through their hard-work and voluntary efforts, reclaimed much of the original land, including the 1-acre glasshouse on site.

Cill Ulta is based in Donegal’s Gaeltacht, which is hugely important for a language, cultural and heritage perspective. In addition, passing on the skills of crop cultivation to the youth in the In 2003, the community, is a key mission. ‘’Each year we bring in 10 young people from the community to gain valuable paid work experience in cultivation and research practices. I love the passion for our language, biodiversity, leadership, and rural development, which is evident as soon as you walk onsite ’’ outlines Project Manager Mairéad Nic an Iomaire.

Eithne & Mairead

Mairéad and Eithne are two of the lynchpins of Cill Ulta, who along with ten staff, work with over 70 community groups as well as national, regional and local partners across a range of sustainability and biodiversity programmes. Eithne resides in the area and has focussed much of her efforts on this hugely important social enterprise., while Mairéad, originally from the Connemara Gaeltacht, has been part of the organisation for the past 2 years.

‘’How long do you have?’’ was the response from both ladies, when asked about their current projects. ‘’Starting on a high level, we have two European Innovation Programmes focusing on bringing abandoned land into cultivation using regenerative farming methods. This includes the growth and supply of local sustainable produce, biodiversity research and training workshops’’ states Eithne with a radiant smile.

Eithne adds ‘’alongside our own community base, support and collaboration on research and funding with external stakeholders such as Údarás na Gaeltachta, Donegal County Council. Pobal, Teagasc, UCC and UCD has also been hugely beneficial to our development.’’ 

Cill Ulta Polytunnels

Over the past 18 months Cill Ulta has put huge effort into establishing on site of the Northwest Bioeconomy Hub. This will facilitate food entrepreneurs and SMEs to develop sustainable and value-add products, reducing waste and enhancing the potential and growth of business partners. ‘’We’ve already secured funding to support development and ultimately what we want is to create and sustain employment opportunities through innovative farming and food technology’’ explains Mairéad.

What is so impressive about Cill Ulta is the range and breadth of projects they are involved in. It is all firmly rooted (no pun intended) in their vision to ‘’promote Irish solutions to the challenges of climate change and agricultural import dependency, whilst supporting culture, language and the population of Donegal’s Gaeltacht. ‘’Our community is at the heart of what we do, they are part of and involved in every aspect. There are exciting changes happening at Cill Ulta and while we are applying knowledge, research and strategic growth to everything we do, we must also preserve the knowledge of the past.’’

‘Cairde Chill Ulta’ is a new fundraising campaign to assist in the development of the North West Bioeconomy hub whilst also developing international knowledge transfer for other regions such as Cill Ulta, to develop practices to enhance climate actions. 

Cill Ulta is also a participant of the #BuyDonegal campaign which encourages people to support homegrown Donegal businesses such as this, wherever they are in the world. 

For those wishing to avail of fresh locally produced vegetables and herbs you can buy online

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