Award-winning craft beer, expertly refurbished bikes, delicious organic bread and much sought after Lough Neagh eels – what do they have in common?
The answer is they are all products of successful co-operatives in Northern Ireland, run by passionate and experienced people dedicated to sustainable, community-owned enterprises.
Co-operative Alternatives, in partnership with Social Enterprise NI, has organised a free study tour to highlight the energy and diversity of co-operatives in Northern Ireland - and offer people the opportunity to talk to those running successful co-operative businesses.
The half day event is on Friday, March 24, with a mini-bus tour from Belfast to Toomebridge, via Ballymena and back to sample products, talk to co-operators and give anyone interested in starting a co-operative the chance to learn more.
Starting with a breakfast of fresh baked bread and scones at Loveworks in 130 Duncairn Gardens, the tour will reach the people behind this fantastic co-op which provides handcrafted bread, bike repair and gardening and landscaping services.
The next stop is Breezemount Farm in Connor to talk to co-operatives skilled in renewable energy, including Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE), Northern Ireland’s only solar energy co-operative and Drumlin Wind Energy, a co-operative co-owning six wind turbines.
Next on the tour is Harryville in Ballymena for coffee with the Raglan Community Development and Renovation Society, which is working to raise £100,000 in community shares towards an ambitious project to create a community hub, with 10 business units and exhibition area in the Slemish n tha Braid Credit Union building.
Then it is on to Toomebridge, centre of the Northern Ireland eel fishing industry to talk to the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Co-operative and to taste the product that is a prized delicacy all over Europe.
During the trip, the people behind the successful Lacada Brewery co-op, which is making a big reputation in the rapidly growing craft beer market, will also speak to participants. There will also be an opportunity to sample some of their wonderful products.
Places on the tour are free but must be booked in advance. To book your place click here, email Tiziana O’Hara or ring 07858317634.