Tradiitonal Craftmaking, Growing Food Locally, 'Meitheal' & Community Self-help Alive & Well in Galway City

Photo: Local children painting the kitchen/storage/toilet container at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

A edited version of my letter below appeared in this week's Galway Independent:

Community Self-reliance

Photo: Local Volunteers in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

Dear Editor,

In response to the recent letter from Councillor Nuala Nolan, members of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden would be delighted to transport seaweed from Ballyloughnane strand to the Ballybane Organic Community Garden. Since last spring, we have secured council permission to harvest some seaweed from the same beach for use as a sustainable natural organic fertiliser in our own green facility.

In the spirit of the traditional Irish ‘Meitheal’, we previously made available indigenous marl to our Ballybane colleagues for the construction of their outdoor piazza oven which represented a small gesture of thanks to a community garden that has inspired so many others across the city.

Photo: Local resdients & members of 'Lisbrook' Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre working in Community Garden

The destruction of the Ballybane garden shed was sad news particularly for all those hard-working volunteers who have given their time, energies, skills and vision in helping to improve the quality of life within the Ballybane region. We too have experienced a rise in anti-social behaviour with severe damage recently to our garden’s poly-tunnel.

Photo: Volunteers involved in the Big Spring Clean-Up adjacent to Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

On Sunday last, fifty volunteers participated in a clean up of the adjacent woodlands that led to three vanloads of rubbish being collected that was the end result of fly-tipping, bush-drinking and the illegal erection of barbed wire- barriers by unscrupulous owners of emaciated horses who are denying other residents the use of what is after public lands. All such problems are endemic across Ireland with citizens feeling increasingly angered and betrayed by the failure of government to systematically prosecute the perpetrators.

Photo: Galway City Deputy Mayor Frank Fahy surveying foundations of wildlife pond at Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

So now is the time for city neighbourhoods to increase co-operation and share resources as well as to face up to both mindless local vandalism and the national economic cutbacks that is a consequence of the ‘me-feinism’ ideology of greedy bankers, property speculators and political cronyism that could destroy a growing sense of togetherness that has been evident within many urban suburbs over the last few years.

Photo: Jack O'Connor preparing the stone for the planned drystone wall at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

Likewise, we need more than ever before to look at our ‘own doorstep’ and ascertain what human and physical resources exist amongst us that can improve local services and facilities.

Photo: Building a 'Living Willow Tunnels' at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

For instance the Ballinfoile Community Garden has benefited from the oftentimes dormant talents of residents who have in our case built a performance stage, pathways, raised beds and willow/hazel fencing; laid out a wildlife pond, planted native hedgerows and introduced young people to an almost extinct folk knowledge of medicinal properties of common herbs and old techniques of vegetable/fruit planting.

Photo: Volunteers planting Willow Tree woodlands at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

To facilitate both individual and community self-reliance, we are supporting the first public meeting of Grow It Yourself (GIY) in Galway city which is taking place at 7.30pm on Tuesday May 17th in the Menlo Park Hotel. So anyone who has an interest in growing one’s own food in anything from a small window sill container to a field, should attend this event which will be launched by famed GIY founder Michael Kelly from Waterford.

Photo: American students from Galway University (NUIG) helping out at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

Photo: Sellling the Fruits of the Volunteers' Labours at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

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