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Finglas Community Garden
(map). Like other community gardens that have been set up in Dublin in the past year, in Phibsborough and Dolphin’s Barn, this project has an environmental focus, with the intention of establishing a system of urban food production on a small scale. The gardeners also hope to play a small part in strengthening the cohesion of the local community, by inviting the involvement of local people in the project.
As global supplies of oil become depleted, urban food production is likely to become more and more important in the future. Cuba was forced to turn to urban food production following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, when Cuban oil supplies dropped from 30 million tones to just 4 million tonnes. Today, 50% of Havana’s food comes from urban gardens and allotments.
The garden came about after one of the teachers in St. Joseph’s school met Lara, a Dolphin’s Barn community gardener living in Finglas, through the Catholic Worker community in Rialto. With the agreement of the school authorities, she offered an area of the school grounds as the basis to start a new community garden for Dublin city. A number of gardeners, for the most part from the garden in Dolphin’s Barn, have been working in the school over the last month or so, preparing the ground and planting strawberries, lettuce, beans, squash, rocket, rhubarb, and a few sunflowers.
The soil in the Finglas garden is a lot stonier than that in Dolphin’s Barn, and some of the Finglas crop has been attacked and eaten by slugs. But the gardeners are persevering, and the garden is coming into shape. There is an arrangement to meet at the school every Wednesday evening. Last Wednesday, which was a fine, dry day, there were seven of us working on the garden, when curiosity brought a group of four young local lads into the school to see what was going on. They were on their way for a game of cards, but dropped in to ask all about the project. They ended up promising to come back the following week to help out. Anto (in red) and his friends can be seen in the photos below.
As well as making links within the community, there are plans to create a national network of community gardening projects. A few weeks ago, in County Clare, there was a meeting of community gardeners from all over the country. This meeting included a screening of the film The Power Of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, about how urban sites of food production have become particularly important in Cuba. One of the main points of discussion at the meeting was the best way to establish links between community gardening groups nationwide. Irish community gardeners have also begun to make links with other projects outside of Ireland. One of the gardeners in Dublin, Bruno, was involved in community gardening in France for about five years, and was part of a nationwide community gardening network. He is returning to France at the end of the summer and is to report back to the French network on the state of community gardening in Ireland.
The Dolphin’s Barn garden is closed for the moment, but the considerable energy that has been built up will not be wasted: friendships made in Dolphin’s Barn are being maintained, and the knowledge that was accumulated will be applied to the Finglas garden. In Dolphin’s Barn, there were some efforts made to connect with the local community. These included an exhibition in the public library, and an initial foray into environmental education. In conjunction with Nancy from ECO-UNESCO, residents of Dolphin's Barn and Rialto, Kieran Kirwan and Ciaran O’Byrne, who became involved with the garden last summer, gave a talk in a National School in nearby Basin Lane about the project. They left the school with a few blueberry plants. In Finglas, because of the link with the National School, the potential for community involvement may be even greater.
Community gardeners in Finglas have already been in contact with Dublin City Council’s local community development officer, who has been very encouraging about the project. There is a large waiting list for allotments in the Fingal district, and the gardeners hope to get in touch with people from the waiting list, to invite them to get involved in the Finglas Community Garden. Last Wednesday, 31st May, the City Council had a plant sale in the school from 6-8pm, and Finglas community gardeners gave out some leaflets and made some contact with local people. Again a group of local youngsters came down and helped us clear a large area of grass. The garden was also visited by Alma, a research student in Oxford Brookes University, who is studying urban food production, and examining the relationship between green spaces and human well-being.
An email address for queries has been set up, but for the moment, the Finglas group are working from the Dolphin’s Barn garden e-mail discussion list. However, in June a separate mailing list for the Finglas garden will be created. Watch this space for further details. Any like-minded individuals or groups are welcome to get involved. The group already has an overlap in membership - or has made links - with groups such as the Cultivate Centre for Sustainable Living, the Dublin Food Co-op, Food Not Bombs, Seed Savers, and the Rialto Environment Network. If you are interested in local, urban food production as an alternative to food characterised by the three ‘p’s (pesticides, preservatives and excess packaging), you can get in touch with a community gardening project in Dublin at one of the email addresses below. You’ll find that there are plenty of other people taking action to cut down on food miles and unfair trade.