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Grow it, Cook it, Eat it

For a while now I have been following with growing curiosity the Dunmanway community garden “Grow it, Cook it, Eat it” project, envious that there wasn’t something similar in my own village. So I was delighted to be asked to visit the garden and meet the small army of people behind this community enterprise, writes Kate Ryan.

We have ten Community Food Initatives running nationally that we are supporting with funding from Safe Food”. EU explains Georgina Buffini of Healthy Food for All, an all-Ireland food charity that is addressing food poverty by increasing access to Healthy Food for low-income families.

Tracey Holt of the Dunmanway Family Resource Centre is the project co-ordinator and you can tell by the gleam in her eyes that this is a project she is immensely proud of because of the positive effect it has on the community. “This isn’t a project being driven from the top. We have a steering group of various stakeholders, key among them are the volunteers. This is a project for local people and so we must listen to what the community want from the garden. It is our job then to be able to provide that.”

Michael has recently joined the resource centre’s board of directors and already he has been touched by the magic of this place. “I come from a generation where every house has a kitchen garden. That’s no longer the case resulting in younger generations losing the essential skills to grow and cook food and feed yourself well. This project aims to bring those skills back.”

Tracey says: “This garden is a symbol as well as a practical and creative space, it’s so much more than a garden. We have school groups; workshops on everything from festive wreath making to preserving, organic gardening, woodworking and cooking, even taking group to the supermarket to teach about how to understand food lables.” The project has benefitted greatly from the expertise of organic horticulturalist Selvi. “It started with eight week course on the basics of gardening at The Hollies Centre for Sustainability. It has taken so much effort to take this patch of wasteland and turn it into a flourishing garden. We started with raised beds and now the polytunnel extends our growing season. We follow organic principles, and practice the no dig method of gardening instead using sheet mulching of fibrous materials such as cardboard and manure.”

I met Maria and Charlie, their daughters and grandson. Charlie is happy cooking sausages on an impressive brick BBQ whilst Maria is busy tending to handmade pizza from the woodfired oven.

“For me,” says Charlie, “This place is my therapy. After losing my job in construction things were looking pretty grim. I couldn’t find work, I became less active and more isolated. Now, I am here every single day. I have made new friends and learned new things I never ever thought I could do. I’ve become a facilitator in an afterschool gardening club for children aged 7-12. It’s become we all enjoy as a family”.

This is a project that delivers on its promise to teach , support, grow and reconnect a community irrespective of who they are or where they’ve come from through food. There’s freedom to be found in this garden – everyone agrees it has its own vibration. As Charlie’s daughter says: “We like to say that the gates leading into the garden are The Gates of Happiness”.

Volunteers are always welcome: Tuesdays and Thursdays- all help no matter how small is appreciated.

Contact Kirstie at kirstie@dunmanwayfrc.com

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