Since launching a couple of years ago I’ve been encouraged by the resurgence of interest in providing food for ourselves – whether it’s through growing vegetables or keeping animals and bees and becoming more self-sufficient.
Our future is so uncertain (both environmentally and economically) that it’s heartening to see people take control of a small part of their lives (if you can call eating a small part!)
The interest in school gardening at primary level is massively important for our children’s futures and with initiatives like SEED and transition year students starting to grow vegetables, many more youngsters will start to benefit from gardening projects in their schools too. GIY Ireland have had phenomenal success with groups meeting up monthly in almost every town in Ireland, enabling people to come together and share their knowledge. Garden centres have been welcoming the revival in grow your own, which must be helping to keep their doors open in these very hard pressed times as well as keeping local people in employment.
As well as various other projects for Greenside Up, 2011 saw a developing interest in community gardens. My passion for this area of gardening grew whilst I was helping start their community garden in the spring of 2010. The sense of friendship, laughter, teamwork, appreciation of nature and satisfaction from learning new skills cannot be underestimated in today’s climate.
Bagenalstown Community Garden
For the growing season this year I was delighted to be invited back to help both old and new gardeners once again.
In March, after mixed success at encouraging new gardeners, Bagenalstown Family Resource Centre approached Carlow VEC and for 15 weeks I was able to help a group fill the raised beds with seeds and seedlings.
Ballyhale Community Garden
In April Kilkenny VEC were able to fund a gardening course for a group of active retired people in Ballyhale which has resulted in a small community garden being established in the land beside the local community centre. A variety of age groups were involved and I was delighted towards the end of the six weeks to welcome grandchildren of some of the participants along too.
Millennium Court Community Garden
I learnt a great deal from the older participants of that group – from how things were done in the olden days to lots of reuse/recycle tips.
I especially enjoyed hearing about old leather boots being cut up and the material being used to make door hinges!
Then in October Respond got in touch and I was asked to help a brand new community garden project in Kilkenny at Millennium Court. We started with four mornings and are planning a full Fetac Level 3 course in Outdoor Vegetable Crop Production for the spring months of 2012. Set in the middle of a housing estate almost all the participants are neighbours and we can already see the benefits to the community of them all growing vegetables, both at the Community Centre and in their own gardens, swooping and sharing their produce and vegetable recipes.
Without the funding it’s unlikely that these groups would have started and I sincerely hope that whoever decides where funding is allocated, they too see the incredible benefits of these gardens to communities and individuals alike.
Plans for 2012?
More community gardens I hope! My own local parish of Leighlinbridge will be starting one in the early spring which I’m really looking forward to getting involved with.
Now that FETAC have introduced their new level 3 course I’ll be able to offer accredited courses aimed at people who want to grow their own food. I’m especially looking forward to delivering this as I continued with my own training this summer by undertaking a FETAC level 6 Train the Trainer course and will be able to implement the recommendations made.
I’m also coordinating a new All Ireland Community Garden Network group (official name still to be decided) with representatives from all over the island due to meet up in the new year to decide where we go from here. This is a very exciting project as it’s hoped that it will be supported by various interested parties around the country and will benefit many, including those of us who work with the gardens, local councils and of course the gardeners themselves.
It’s very easy to get disheartened by all the negativity and uncertainty that surrounds our day to day lives at present, but we’ll get nowhere by allowing those thoughts and feelings to take over. Growing food for ourselves and our families is empowering. It helps our budgets, it brings us closer to nature, it’s good for us and it gives us the choice over what we want to eat.
So if you’re not already growing your own, will it be your resolution for 2012? Or if you are, will you be growing even more?