THE BRAINS BEHIND THE FINGAL FOOD FOREST TELLS US HOW THE PROJECT CAN BENEFIT US ALL
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.
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.’