Harvesting a love of nature

Two girls with the potatoes they harvested at Innisfree Farm

Our conservation rangers have just completed their annual potato harvesting with schoolchildren, part of an annual project we run with local schools.

Pupils from Ballytober Primary School, Dunseverick PS and Straidbilly PS work with us every year to plant, grow and harvest potatoes.

 

We bring the school children to Innisfree Farm at the Giant's Causeway throughout the school year as part of this community involvement initiative, which aims to teach young people the importance of protecting the environment.

 

The potatoes, which were planted by the schools last spring, were dug at Innisfree Farm under the supervision of our rangers, Dr Cliff Henry and Christie Greer. The project also commemorates the work of John Clarke who was considered a local hero and exceptional potato “wizard”.

Conservation rangers and school children gathered at Innisfree Farm

Dr Cliff Henry, Area Ranger who co-ordinates the event, commented: “We are delighted to have worked with pupils from the local community again and together we have harvested a good crop of Maris Piper potatoes, which the children were able to take home for their tea.

 

Children digging potatoes at Innisfree Farm

“John Clarke, who lived on the site for a period was an award-winning potato breeder and the man we have to thank for this very popular potato variety, approximately 80 percent of the potatoes in the UK come from the Maris Piper.”

 

John Clarke was born in Ballintoy in 1889. He left school when he was only 12 years old and was completely self-taught on potato breeding having read books from his local library in Ballycastle. He then went on to dedicate his life to experimenting with breeding the popular vegetable, winning an OBE for his dedication and contribution in 1969. 

 

By the time John passed away on 28 May 1980 he had overseen the development of 33 different types of potato, 30 of which carried the name prefix of “Ulster”, and was considered a very highly regarded scientist amongst his peers.

 

Find out more about the work that we do to protect and educate about the area around the Giant's Causeway, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site at: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/features/30-years-of-unesco-in-northern-ireland