Galway community organic garden celebrates its tenth birthday

Ballinfoile Mór garden transformed from barren ground to productive green space

One of Galway city’s oldest community gardens, Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden, will celebrate its 10th birthday on Sunday and host a harvest festival for residents.

Locals from Ballinfoile, Terryland, Ballindooley and Castlegar areas are being invited to join the celebrations from 12 noon until 4pm on Sunday.

Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden PRO Brendan Smith says local residents can celebrate this "great community-made resource"and "enjoy the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown by a small group of dedicated gardeners".

The volunteers, he says, have done so much to create a green oasis that is used as an outdoor classroom, a social space, a wildlife haven and a healthy food growing facility.

The event will also provide pizzas baked in the garden's huge oven made out of local clay, potatoes boiled in giant pots heated over a traditional open fire, music, traditional children’s games, and face painting.

”The facility has never looked more productive thanks to the hard working committee of Padraic Keirns, Tom Hanley, Laurence Daly, Margaret Douglas, Michael McDonnell, Michael Tiarnan, Maura Mullen and Sabrina Commins, supported by a healthy band of volunteers including Alaa, Saaed and Vlad from the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre."

He says the group has "come a long way" since 2009 when the representations of Michael McDonnell, Michael Tiarnan, Caitríona Nic Mhuiris and himself proved successful when Stephen Walsh of Galway City Council's parks office allocated a small field at the edge of Terryland Forest Park.

"Modelled on the original of the species, the Ballybane Community Garden, we set about transforming a barren patch of ground into the lush green productive space that it is today.

"The field was levelled and fenced off for us in 2009 by city parks staff who also provided a shipping container. From January until July 2010, volunteers dug out from very rough stony ground the first vegetable beds, planted the first fruit trees, constructed a raised concrete platform for dining and live music activities, laid down electrical cabling and water pipes as well as erecting a large poly tunnel. The interior of the container was transformed into a storage facility, a kitchen and a toilet whilst its exterior was covered with a beautiful rural landscape scene, painted by local children working under the auspices of artist Margaret Nolan.

By August of that year, the group was able to host a successful harvest festival, thus making next week’s event its 10th annual food celebration.

"Our aim is to continue making this green neighbourhood resource a friendly outdoor venue where people can socialise, grow organic fruits and vegetables as well as to learn the traditional eco-skills from composting to pruning that our grandparents possessed."

He says the latest medical scientific research is showing the benefits to people of all ages who spend time surrounded by plants and trees in what is referred to as the ‘Green Prescription’.

"By working with others in among our fruit trees, vegetable plots and herbal beds, as well as by participating in our educational courses, volunteers in our community garden are encouraged to bring this knowledge back to their homes so that they can grow tasty safe foods in their own gardens to be served on the kitchen plate for the enjoyment of the whole family.

"Growing food organically enriches the soil, reduces our carbon footprint, does not pollute the environment, helps the local economy, reduces a household’s food bill and improves personal nutrition. Just as important a well-maintained organic garden is by nature a diverse place, filled not only with food crops, but flowers, birds, insects, bees, butterflies and birds. It is a sanctuary for wildlife at a time when 25 per cent of Ireland’s native species are under threat."

He believes urban neighbourhood organic gardens will play an ever-increasing role in tackling climate chaos.

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