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Building Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

September 7, 2014

Carlow coverIf you’re a regular reader you may have noticed that building resilient and supportive communities is a running theme on this blog.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

This not only applies to the community garden projects I’m involved with, but extends to our community at large. When Susan and I worked with Carlow Tourism on a Green and Vibrant project recently, arranging a #TasteCarlow bloggers tour with the aim of sharing some of the positive aspects of my home county, it was with that in mind. (Here’s Irish Farmerette’s experience of the tour.)

We’re blessed in Carlow to have a strong and active network of groups and the commitment to work with and not against one another is palpable. Take some of the small business’ and destinations we came across on our bloggers tour for example:

#TasteCarlow Tour

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of CarlowBianka from Carlow Tours, our chauffeur and guide for the bloggers day, is flying one of many flags for Carlow. She’s not only created a small business for herself, but in doing so, Carlow Tours are attracting visitors to the county which helps other business’ to thrive.

Bianca’s enthusiasm and passion for Carlow is infectious as she shares myths and tales of our local history and heritage, ensuring that ancestors communities aren’t forgotten either.

Duckett’s Grove

Thanks to Carlow Council, like other old houses and estates Duckett’s Grove have opened the gardens, buildings, stables and outbuildings to crafters, tea rooms and a visitor centre. Owners of country houses are realising that we enjoy poking around different shops and buildings along with taking tours and tea in their gardens and houses, giving them the wherewithal to keep the premises open and also providing small business’ with a home and an opportunity to delight us with their wares. It’s a collaboration that seems to be working well for everyone.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of CarlowCarlow Farmers Market

Carlow Farmers Market, like many others around the country, support and promote each other. Our local market traders meet every Saturday in the Potato Mart in the centre of Carlow town, selling locally grown, produced and packaged food. The growers and retailers encourage and fly another Carlow flag for good, tasty, often organic, wholesome food. They also provided a tasty picnic for the bloggers on our tour, giving the group the opportunity to sample of some of the tasty treats on offer in Carlow, from bread, cheese, fruit and meat to pickles, crackers, juices and beer.

Taste of Carlow Food & Craft Fair

The Taste of Carlow Food and Craft Festival is a two-day event, the first taking place in August, the second in December. Here, traders around the county and beyond are encouraged to take a space and show us what they can offer. From the Carlow Farmers Market regulars to toy sellers, food stands, eco trails, artists, bungee trampoliners, facepainters, crafters and more, they encourage the community to visit, meet, play, shop and spend.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Malone’s Fruit Farm

Given my love of fresh food I’m almost ashamed to reveal that I’ve never called into Malone Fruit Farm shop having driven past it countless times, but that’s set to change. From when you first walk through the doorway, the little shop is a delightful emporium of food, crafts, locally grown, locally made, artisan, free range, frozen, fresh… I could go on and on, it really is a treasure and if you’ve ever dreamed about owning a farm shop, Malone’s is one you’ll definitely want to visit to get a feel for the best they have to offer.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Huntington Castle

The owners of Huntington Castle have opened their home and gardens to encourage visitors to look around, drink tea and eat cake. For years the house was a the central point of the community, employing locals, acting as a garrison then in later years, opening up to a global community as the foundation centre for the Fellowship of Isis. Nowadays they offer their home and gardens up for people to visit and tour, as accommodation, as a venue, either for private events or more public ones such as vintage fairs, where stallholders can sell their goods to interested shoppers.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

The Step House Hotel

The Step House Hotel, our last venue on the tour where we literally experienced another Taste of Carlow thanks to the tasting menu put together by Chef Alan Foley. Alan takes pride in sourcing as much of their food for his kitchen from local growers and producers as he can. The Step House also share their tips and suggestions on where to head to when visiting Carlow on their website and blog.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Resilient Community Building

For all my positivity, I’m a realist too. It has to be acknowledged that as well as supporting one another, groups can get caught up in nitpicky and destructive habits, but where does that lead us? Disjointed, disfunctional, hurt, frightened and fragmented. Yet as these few examples have shown, by simply working together and encouraging one another, we can breed optimism and success. I know which road I prefer to travel along. How about you?

If you’re interested in building committed and sustainable communities and would like to find out more,, We Create Workspace and the P2P Foundation are hosting a series of events this week that bring together cooperative advocates, community activists and commons animators to share perspectives and ideas on the question,

“How can a commons-based collaborative economy strengthen the resilience of our communities?”  

Contact them directly for more information or to book a place.

And if you ever spot Carlow on a signpost or map, on the way to or inbetween somewhere, don’t drive straight past, swing by and look us up, you might find we’re quite a friendly bunch really 🙂


Communities – are they the key to our survival?

October 29, 2011

Community - Key to our survival

We’re all familiar with the term ‘Community’. Those of us who are regular users of social media are part of a global community. The Oxford dictionary definition is

the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common

We like to share, educate, chat, help and support each other. We get a buzz when people take the time to comment on our blog posts, like our facebook pages, view our youtube clips or retweet our links. It makes us feel that we are listened to, respected or just happy that we’ve found like-minded individuals to chat and chuckle with. But how can that sense of community transfer into the real world as opposed to a virtual one and help us to survive the challenging times we find ourselves in?

As an intricately social species we receive immense pleasure from being part of a group, and studies on teenagers have shown that adolescents actively seek peer groups as investments in their future survival**.

It strikes me that in the last couple of decades many people have been so busy collecting ‘goods’ they’ve forgotten about the importance of friends – or community.

This week Cultivate  launched a video that explains the term community resilience in a friendly, jargon free way. The video encourages us to look beyond ourselves and shows us that by working together we can change our way of thinking and ultimately steer our lives so that we can survive the climatic and economic challenges that we find ourselves in.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work with several community gardens in my surrounding area. In two weeks time a group of us will be meeting in Dublin to set up an All Ireland Community Garden Network with the aim of linking and supporting all the gardens on the island of Ireland. Many of us have realised that with hard work, passion and commitment we can make a difference, but as a group we can do so much more

I’ve written about the many benefits of Community gardening in previous posts – from the basic life skills of learning how to provide and preserve food through to friendships made and sense of achievement gained. However, community gardens can also be the catalyst that enables those same communities to look within themselves and begin to acknowledge that the only way to their survival is by working together. From gardening to supporting local business, to sharing knowledge, educating each other and listening to our elders, once we reach within our community we can flourish.

Communities with common goals can find considerable energy if they so desire – just look at the fundraising efforts and commitment expended when creating new sports facilities. Now imagine that same energy transferred into making a community more resilient – providing land that could be used to grow food in community supported agriculture or installing wind or solar power that could be used to run the homes and businesses within those communities.

This change in attitude takes time and as we  are discovering, time that our planet may not give us the luxury to take.  If we don’t wake up and shake up our communities soon and figure out how we are to survive the more difficult years ahead of us, we may just find we’ve left it too late.

*Oxford Dictionary
**Source: National Geographic Magazine 2011

photo credit: The world is mine – Day 37/365 via photopin (license)