Community gardeners discuss 'food on the fringe'

Dozens attend seminar

By Staff Reporter

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Community gardeners discuss 'food on the fringe'

Donegal Community Gardens Network

Food on the Fringe”, a seminar organised by the Donegal Community Gardens Network, began a discussion that organisers hope will lead to Donegal community gardens becoming sustainable.

Dozens of people attended the seminar last Thursday, to hear speakers discuss the changing face of Irish food, establishing and promoting food sovereignty and sustainable solutions for local farmers and food producers.

“Community gardens are looked at as kind of a hobby, but we could actually become an entity unto ourselves, producing and providing food, flowers and herbs for people,” Joanne Butler, chairperson of the recently formed Donegal Community Gardens Network, said.

The network is to launch formally in March, and last Thursday’s seminar, held at the Donegal County Council public services centre in Letterkenny, was something of a “pre-launch”, Joanne said.

“We are just basically starting a conversation,” she said. Joanne said community gardens are looking to become more sustainable by selling what they grow.

She said after the network launches in spring of 2017, they hope to hold four networking events throughout the year in different community gardens. The network will also be able to assist community gardens in some of the skills involved, she said.

MC for last Thursday's event was Gareth Austin, horticulture teacher, columnist and resident gardening guru of BBC Radio Foyle, who also works with Ballyholey Farm in Raphoe.

Speakers included Fergal Smith, the Irish surfer who has returned to the land in Clare to set up a community garden and progressing towards Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); Derry native Rita Wild, the force behind BOXA, a bridge between CSA and a buy-in group purchasing box scheme; James McCrudden, national chairman of Country Markets Ltd. and strong advocate of short food chains; and Perry Share; sociologist and head of arts and humanities at Sligo IT, who has published in the areas of community food projects and food consumption.

“The next step is putting the words into action,” Joanne said.