Category Archives: Fingal Independent 2015

The Fingal Food Forest is more than planting trees


THE Fingal Independent’s nominee for this year’s ‘Get Involved’ project is the Fingal Food Forest and in the latest update on the project, the man behind the plan to turn the former Balleally landfill site into an environmental and food sustainability project says that the food forest is about a lot more than ‘just planting trees’.

Conor Crotty is the brains behind the Fingal Food Forest project which is competing as the Fingal Independent backed project in this year’s ‘Get Involved’ initiative. ‘Get Involved’ is a way for local communities all over Ireland to work together to improve their own lives, create local jobs, and protect the environment. ‘Get Involved’ is a sustainable communities initiative developed by 51 local newspapers throughout Ireland.

Conor Crotty with Cara, Luca and ‘Belle’.
Conor Crotty with Cara, Luca and ‘Belle’.

In 2015, local newspapers with the support of the SEAI and Clann Credo will drive voluntary sustainability projects where citizens will collectively play a more pro-active, inclusive and coherent role in shaping the future of their local environs.

The Fingal Food Forest is the Fingal Independent’s nominee this year and Lusk man, Conor Crotty has been in touch to update us on the progress of his dream to turn what was once an environmental headache into a beacon of sustainability. Conor told the Fingal Independent: ‘Over the last several months I have been lobbying councillors and county council officials extensively to establish a community food forest here in Fingal as an initial phase of a broader sustainability concept project. ‘In theory, I don’t think anyone is against the idea of planting more trees.

However the full spectrum of intrinsic value in creating, what the best-selling author and nature movement luminary, Richard Louv calls ‘a nature rich environment’ range from the obvious, to the subtle, to the surprising.’ What is a food forest? Conor explains: ‘It’s a three dimensional landscape made up of trees shrubs and ground cover plants with a focus on perennials.

All of the plants are of use either directly to people such as fruit, nuts, perennial herbs and plants or indirectly like pollinator and soil building nitrogen plants. ‘In a woodland ecosystem natural processes and cycles maintain the soil fertility and the health of the plants indefinitely.

A food forest replicates these natural processes to human ends.’ Biodiversity is a key word in the project, according to Conor, who said: ‘The World Wildlife Fund recently reported that we have lost over half of our global wildlife population in the last 40 years alone! In fact we are now living through what has been coined the sixth great extinction with more species going extinct today than at any other point in time since the dinosaurs. ‘By creating a project with a focus on ecological intensification, or what I term a ‘Lifescape’ we can engage people and the younger generation specifically around building a positive environmental story for the future.

We can enhance and intensify the quality of the soil, the air and water quality, plant and animal life and in the process improve the quality of our built environment and our lives too.’ But the food forest is designed to benefit people too and become a ‘social resource’. Conor explained: ‘As a father the question as to how we create a truly shared social resource that facilitates learning, development and recreation in a natural and safe setting is fundamental.

‘There is a growing body of evidence that a more rounded developmental experience incorporating natural play and the full sensory experience not only increases student performance but also attention rates, creativity and physical dexterity. ‘Research into creative free form play has even linked it to higher rates of intelligence and problem solving skills when compared to more structured forms of play like sport. Socrates said that ‘wonder is the beginning of wisdom’ and I would argue that the classroom of tomorrow must foster this sense of natural wonder and stewardship to address the environmental challenges of our time.’

Sustainability is the overriding message of the project. Conor said: ‘Fingal County Council has outlined sustainable development as one of the guiding principles of the next spatial Development Plan (2017-2023). I would argue that the Fingal Food Forest proposal is the perfect opportunity to bring the plans core themes of sustainability, climate change adaptation, social inclusion and high quality urban design to life in people’s imaginations.’ Conor wants the Fingal Food Forest to be a ‘unique space’ in the county. He said: ‘Unfortunately human development has more often than not been accompanied by a corresponding deterioration or decline in biodiversity and the richness of the natural environment.

With Fingal earmarked for a significant amount of Dublin’s future expansion I would argue the county is in a unique position to redress this historical trend. ‘In fact, future residential development, if planned creatively, could secure adjacent regional land banks or green infrastructure outside of traditional one dimensional residential or agricultural zoning.

A multifunctional or tiered approach to the landscape could not only foster richer biodiversity and wildlife directly in our community. ‘It could also improve health and well-being, access to fresh and nutritionally dense food while building a sense of place, community and social cohesion that has universal appeal across age, gender, ethnicity, religion and socio economic background.’

In conclusion, Conor told the Fingal Independent: ‘In ‘The Nature Principle’ Richard Louv argues that a reconnection with the natural world is fundamental to our human health, well-being and to our very survival. The Fingal Food Forest seems a good place to start that conversation.’

Fingal Food Forest Chosen as Get Involved 2015 Entry


An environmentalist from Lusk has come up with a unique proposal to transform what was once a notorious landfill into Fingal’s first ‘food forest’ where nuts, berries and fruits are in abundance in a woodland environment that will become an incredible resource for the county. The creation of the Fingal Food Forest is the brainchild of Lusk resident, Conor Crotty (35) who is the founder of an organisation called ‘Artisan Army’ who are pursuing projects around the country that build a model for sustainable living.

His proposal, which has been selected as the Fingal Independent’s entry in the Get Involved 2015 competition, has also been put forward for inclusion in the next Development Plan. When Conor heard the council were progressing plans to turn the former dump into parkland, he thought it might be the ideal location for a food forest. The Lusk man told the Fingal Independent: ‘This 125 acre green space has become available to the public. It is designated for green infrastructure. It’s right beside Rogerstown Estuary which, if you’ve ever been down there, is absolutely unbelievable. ‘I went canoeing there and there is fish jumping out of the water and amazing bird life and I later found out, there are otters down there.

‘It’s a green space that the council are making available and they have in their minds that it’s going to be some kind of park but if it’s a big site so, why put another playground or playing field in it? Let’s do something different.’ The Lusk man said he has always ‘had an affinity with nature’ and when he was younger, his mates would tease him and call him ‘nature boy’. So the Artisan Army was formed to look at more sustainable ways to live and the Fingal Food Forest is one of the early projects the organisation is pursuing. Talking about his vision for the forest, Conor sees a woodland environment and perhaps a conference or event centre in the middle of it, that would be energy neutral.

The entire site would be self-sufficient in energy and while it would be a social and educational resource for the community and a tourist attraction, it will also have a practical purpose in providing food from the forest and from experiments on site with permaculture and aquaponics. Conor said: ‘It will be beautiful to look at and experience and will also have a utility in terms of providing food. I would really like to see the community taking ownership of this idea and make it a real community resource.’ He added: ‘We are trying to get people passionate about quality of life and environmental issues, particularly younger people because climate change is the existential issue of our time. ‘I can completely stand over the concept behind the project but it’s one thing me pushing it and another getting a whole community behind it.’ He added: ‘You are going to have tourists coming into Fingal when a large part of their experience is going to be looking out the window on the motorway. ‘You need to have something experiential to visit and the infrastructure to bring people into the county.

The example that comes to mind is Tayto Park, if someone had told you a few years ago there would be a Tayto Park in Ashbourne with one of the biggest roller coasters in western Europe, people would have said, what are you talking about? But it’s there now and it’s incredibly successful.’ He wants the forest to showcase solutions for sustainable living. Conor said: ‘If you plant a food forest, whether it be a fruit forest or a nut forest or a combination of both, that could be there for three to five hundred years and that’s an investment in our future.’ The Lusk man also wants the Fingal Food Forest to be a valuable social resource for the local community and for the county. He said: ‘Fingal is synonymous with horticulture but this is a different kind of horticulture we don’t have a historical background in. ‘It will be an educational resource in a time of climate change where I think I read recently that something like 90% of the world’s food production was attributed to just 15 plants and six animals so there’s a whole range of food and plants that is neglected. So why not experiment with those?’ Conor was now been inspired to try to have the project inserted into the new Fingal County Development plan when a leaflet for the public consultation on the formation of that plan dropped through his door. He said: ‘I was stunned! Sustainability and sustainable development was referenced as a key themes and it touched on several of the issues I was trying to address with ArtisanArmy such as climate change adaptation, social inclusion, high quality sustainable design, place-making and green infrastructure. ‘The Development Plan presented a perfect opportunity to link the ArtisanArmy concept project in sustainable living with a broader council policy document. The public consultation and submission process also allowed me to engage with the council in a highly relevant, timely and direct manner.’

‘The Fingal Food Forest is proposed as phase one of a broader sustainability project focusing on environmental and ecological issues. In the submission, I argue that as the youngest and fastest growing region in the country, Fingal County Council has a professional and moral obligation to facilitate a discussion about the type of society we want to build for our children.’’