Donegal to grow a community garden network

Donegal to grow a community garden network
By Carolyn Farrar carolyn.farrar@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

The coordinators of the new Donegal Community Garden Network want to hear from community gardens in the county as plans for the network get under way.

At the annual seminar of Changemakers Donegal, held last week in Burt, an afternoon session discussing development of a community garden network drew nearly three dozen people from around the county, Gortahork to Carndonagh, Moville to Mountcharles and Dunfanaghy.

“We want community gardens to be accessible to everybody, not just gardeners,” Joanne Butler of OURganic Gardens in Gortahork said. Joanne and Larry Masterson of Blissberry Social Farm in Mountcharles, will be joint coordinators of the new volunteer-led network.

Joanne said they want the network to promote the benefits of gardening for mental health, and to include aspects of regenerating the land, holistic therapy, benefits to the environment, increasing biodiversity and recycling organic material and water.

“All of these things can be created in a community garden,” she said.

Joanne said the project will link community gardens with the concept of greening - “Not just growing vegetables, but making our areas greener,” she said.

When established, the Donegal network will feed into the Community Garden Network of Ireland, which was established in 2011. The national network last year called on counties to create their own networks, and with this move Donegal will become the second county in the country to develop its own network, following Carlow.

Joanne and Larry will be aided by a large steering group, who will help get the network off the ground. Their first project will be to map all the community gardens in the county.

“We also want to create networking events throughout the year in different community gardens, not only to show what we’ve been growing but to open the doors to the garden to members of the community, to artists and musicians,” Joanne said.

Changemakers, now in its fifth year, is a development education project funded by Irish Aid. The project works to increase people’s awareness and understanding of global issues and the interdependence of different countries and world regions.

At last week’s seminar, James McCrudden of Country Market Ltd. also spoke of the opportunities for community gardens to work with country markets, and herbalist Judith Hoad from Inver spoke of opportunities for the gardens to host holistic or alternative therapies and home remedies.

“We just want to create a space that empowers communities and welcomes people from all diverse backgrounds,” Joanne said.

She said they want to hear from new or established community gardens interested in joining the network. The network can be reached through Facebook pages for the Donegal Community Garden Network, OURganic Gardens or Blissberry Social Farm.