Suzanne Campbell of RTE Drivetime asked me early on the Friday morning if festival goers at the Electric Picnic were ready for a community garden in the midst of their music and arts festival. I stumbled a response and it didn’t air – I wasn’t able to give a direct answer as we’d never done it before. Now the festival is over I’ve had time to reflect. I believe that EVERYONE can be ready for a community garden once they’ve been given the opportunity to experience and get a flavour of what they’re about, no matter where they appear.
A *recent study found that experiencing nature makes us more likely to want to save it. I wonder if Cultivate, before they invited several groups to create the pop-up community farm and garden at Global Green in Electric Picnic already knew that…
Creating a Community Farm & Garden at Electric Picnic
We only met once, several months earlier, but the groups involved in the garden share a passion for the environment, health and quality of food. Within the space of a few hours on the Thursday before the Electric Picnic opened to the public, we worked together to create an area of tranquility and calm in the midst of an eclectic, chaotic festival that was expecting around 50,000 people to pass through its gates. We quickly felt a tangible sense of acceptance as we pooled our plants, resources and ideas and enjoyed each others company as we did so.
We succeeded in creating a community garden that became a welcome retreat for some and a place for others to connect with like-minded people in as natural environment as you can build in a small, festival space. We created the garden with a few straw bales, a pile of pallet chairs and dozens of container grown fruit, vegetables and trees and it worked.
For three days, we were immersed in plants, people and music. We shared stories and conversations with people who are doing their best to make our world a better place, and were hugged for doing so. While we were there we learnt from and soaked up the positive energy from one another.
Community gardens allow us the opportunity for expression and connection and it’s one of the many reasons I’m so passionate about encouraging and supporting them.
The Community & Farm Garden in Global Green
If you keep reading, you’ll find out about some of the people involved in building this little garden in the Global Green eco-village, as well as some of the inspiring community projects taking place in Ireland, where people are making changes within their own communities.
Community Gardening by the Coast
Festival goers saw some beautifully crafted surf boards and were able to paint beach stones brought along by an inspiring bunch of sun-kissed surfers who glowed with health and vitality.
The friendly young group from Moy Hill Community Garden are growing and swapping organic food on land they’ve now bought on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and by getting stuck in and digging, are attracting others to get involved in their garden by the sea too.
During the weekend passers by were encouraged to place tiny tiles in colourful mosaic patterns on circular boards
These were destined for the East Claire Community food co-op and cafe, a Scarrif Community Garden that now employs four gardeners and promotes the growth and sale of affordable fresh food, grown without chemicals.
Urban Farming and Unusual Vegetables
As we walked and talked we stroked trays of microgreens perched on pallet seating, were inspired by potatoes growing in large water containers, and goggled at new hybrid flower sprouts brought along by the Urban Farm who, among many things, are showing teenagers how to grow food in urban Dublin.
The Community Garden Network introduced several varieties of Andean vegetables that are growing in County Kilkenny, helping to highlight how limited our food choices are when we shop in supermarkets, and the fantastic food choices we have when we grow our own.
We also launched Percy Throwaway to the world, a steam punk bug hotel built by Mr G that offered many photo and learning opportunities.
Festival goers were able to discuss the pros and cons of beekeeping and learn about, vertical pallet building and Master Composting schemes. They threw balls through cutouts and answered thought-provoking questions about nature and climate change in a game from Cloughjordan Community Farm.
In the Tipperary Eco village they grow food for families who are paying a regular fee to develop and run the farm that provides their vegetables throughout the year in their Community Supported agriculture scheme.
The Road to Paris
Friends of the Earth encouraged us to think about the Road to Paris, a campaign that aims to be the strongest and most influential voice, platform and process supporting a global climate change deal in Paris during COP21; while a talented puppeteer from Green Me performed an enchanting, twice daily show for children about growing seeds.
Fitness and Fun
Dublin Cycling Campaign showed us some quirky, homemade bicycle contraptions, built to encourage us away from our fuel pumping cars, whilst the Bike Institute encouraged fitness as punters raced against one another on static bikes to the tunes of various DJ spun tunes.
Climate and Seeds
Self Help Africa displayed wonderful photographic images that captured dusty villagers in Africa coping with the effects of climate change that the West have inflicted upon them. Irish Seedsavers invited us to play a human fruit machine game that saw festival goers leave with big smiles and small packets of seeds to plant at home.
Meditation and Art
Surrounding us all were charming yurts, an art-filled tent and a comfy, cosy tepee, as well as carefully crafted sculpture and trickling water that flowed from a natural feature, creating spaces and encouraging visitors to absorb or reflect.
Despite looking out on the Despacio big top and the funfair, a comment was made that the community garden was
“a haven in the midst of all the noise and crowds”
No better compliment for a garden. Everyone who took the time to visit us walked away with a smile, and a glimpse of how many of us are working in and with nature to create and promote richer, more connected ways of life in their communities.
Giving people everywhere the opportunity to be in a community garden is an educating and enriching experience, no matter whether it’s on a rooftop, a two acre field or a small scrap of land.
The more people are able to visit, experience or work in community gardens, the more they’ll be likely to join, create or support them and as they do so, learn about the origins of food, soil, wildlife, food security and working with nature. Importantly, in an age that is becoming more disconnected as human interaction swings towards virtual, getting outside in a garden with people allows us the opportunity to continue to interact with one another.
Nature attracts us. Nature can calm and heal us. Nature connects us, and those of us who experience and love being surrounded by nature, simply want to save it.
Have you spent some time in the company of nature recently?
* Source: Mother Nature News.