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‘Greenside Up’ and Community Gardening in Ireland

Photo of Dee Sewell.

I’m also promoting the idea of workplace gardens to encourage business’ to use some of the land or roof space they have and encourage office bound staff to get outside and grow.

By Dee Sewell
Greenside Up
Teaching Growth. Teaching Green
Aug 2016
From Food For Cities Listserv

I am a horticulturalist teaching adults how to grow food in Ireland and volunteering as a founder member and chairperson of Community Gardens Ireland.

I started ‘Greenside Up’ back in June 2009 with the idea of visiting and teaching people in their own gardens who wanted to grow food without chemicals but weren’t sure how. The recession was beginning to take hold and it soon became apparent that group workshops for adults would be the most cost effective way for people to learn rather than private consultations. I created a basic programme that could be delivered in health food stores and village halls and then applied to become a tutor with my local adult Education Training Board delivering ‘hobby’ gardening courses.

Soon after I was accepted I was contacted by a rural development group who had a massive polytunnel in a small back garden and wanted to run some gardening classes. Within a few weeks my first community garden was born. I’ve since worked with 14 community gardens both rural and in large towns, gardens that share all the work and then share the produce. That was the beginning.

It quickly became apparent that there were tremendous benefits to this social form of gardening. From learning about growing food and flowers to organic growing, heritage seeds and food security, strengthening local community, nature, biodiversity, the environment, mental health and developing friendships, the list is endless and community gardening covers it all. But surely I wasn’t the only one who’d learnt this, there must be more and if so, were we all reinventing the wheel? A meeting was arranged at a national grow your own event to explore the idea of creating an Irish network of community gardens and as a result, in 2011 Community Gardens Ireland was born.

With representatives from all over the country, our aim was to be a virtual support with a forum and social media sites. As volunteers we agreed to meet two or three times a year in community gardens around the island and began to add seminars and workshop elements to the days. Topics have included social enterprise, funding, seed saving, gardening for peace and conflict management.

We’ve recently begun to create County community garden networks that link in with the main organisation which is creating a bottom up organisation rather than top down and we have lots of plans to become more sustainable and helpful to individuals or organisations already involved in or wanting to create new community gardens, both rural and urban, but we operate on a shoe string with so far no access to grants, so this is a challenge for us.

These days my own focus is on helping others to become involved in community gardening, either through the network or with my business. With support for my local Development Partnership my own growth is expanding to include working in gardens with refugees, the disabled and unemployed as well as jobseekers and other adults looking to grow their own food. I’m also promoting the idea of workplace gardens to encourage business’ to use some of the land or roof space they have and encourage office bound staff to get outside and grow.

This is a very exciting time to be involved with community gardens as they pop up in more derelict or neglected sites around the country and as people’s awareness of the environment and food security issues grow. By supporting one another we can help with the difficulties but also share the growth and success.

Greenside Up.

Community Gardens Ireland.