The Southern Star, Saturday, December 7th 2013.
Article by By Áilín Quinlan
Beetroot brownies, carrot cake, courgette cake – whatever next for the crew at the Dunmanway Community Garden?
Simple – by next summer they’ll be using their own vegetables in the open day goodies!
This year, support worker, Ita Harris supplied the veggies for the delicious range of cakes enjoyed by the guests at the recent autumn celebration open morning at the Dunmanway Family Resource Centre’s brand-new community garden.
But by next summer, says Harris, the garden will have produced its own vegetables – a core group of about six volunteers, including two TUS workers on a work placement scheme, have been carefully nurturing the garden through the crucial early stages.
All six are working under the direction of a gardener from the well-known Hollies Sustainability Centre, who comes to the garden on Thursdays between 10am and 2pm.
During that period, says Harris, members of the public interested in picking up gardening tips, or in learning about growing their own food, are welcome to come along and help out in the garden, which is located at Tonafora behind Dunmanway’s astro-turf pitch opposite the town swimming pool.
And for those interested in learning more, the volunteers working on the garden are hosting a special Christmas open morning on Thursday next, December 12th – and everyone is invited to come along to see how things are shaping up and enjoy some festive refreshments.
‘We are very reliant on volunteers to drive the project,’ says Harris.
‘The gardener is there very much in a mentoring role. She works with the volunteers to plan the work that needs to be done and provides mentoring in how to do it.’
The project, which is funded for a three-year period by a €45,000 grant, started last May. Much of the garden is still undeveloped, as a lot of work and energy has gone into fencing off the site, building handmade gates by the Men’s Shed and sourcing a container to store tools. The polytunnel, which is expected to be put up in the next two weeks, will be flanked by two greenhouses and work is due to begin on a meeting-shelter, where workers can enjoy a break and a chat.
As the project takes shape, public interest in the community garden is beginning to build noticeably, says Harris, who says the volunteers hope to be harvesting their own produce next summer.
Meanwhile a cooker class linked to the gardening project has been rolled out. Munch Bunch, a family cooking and activity programme for low income families, is underway.
On top of that, a group of 15 men are meeting each Friday morning to learn about healthy cooking in the Men’s Shed.
‘Each week the men prepare and eat a nutritious meal in the shed, using the mobile hob that they constructed. The numbers attending has been astounding, it shows that if you organise an accessible programme in the right place, people will come,’ says Harris.
Plans for new year include the building of a propagation house and meeting shed alongside the container which will integrate it into the site.
‘These buildings will be designed and constructed by volunteers from the Men’s Shed using materials funded by the programme. The polytunnel will be planted and further courses on design, construction and gardening skills will take place, as well as a special project to create a therapeutic space for all the community to enjoy.’
Volunteers at Dunmanway’s community garden will host a Christmas open morning on Thursday, December 12th from 10am to 1pm.
Members o f the public, are invited to come along, enjoy a hot beverage and some mince pies, and see how the project is shaping up.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the garden on a more long-term basis is welcome to come any Thursday morning, or call Ita Harris, family support worker in Dunmanway Family Resource Centre, on 023 8856818.