BY BRIAN MOORE
WHEN you first arrive at the beautiful Clonakilty Community Garden, it is clear to see that this was more than a mere meaningful coming together of like-minded people.
This is a gathering, that, looking back at its beginnings from the vantage point of all they have achieved to date, is much more than just an organic coming together or a perfect partnership. Perched high above the bustling town, the once empty patch of ground has been transformed by the volunteers and asylum seekers into a garden, a social space and a centre to learn new skills.
‘We have raised vegetable and herb beds which produce food for the community,’ Olive Walsh of the Clonakilty Friends of the Asylum Seekers told The Southern Star. ‘And more than that we have a space where people can gather and be part of a project that aims to offer friendship, support and education.’
The Community Garden took root three years ago and, while many Clon locals use the garden, the residents at the direct provision centre, Clonakilty Lodge, which is located just across the road. are also enthusiastic participants when it comes to growing good food.
‘We’re all about education and showing all who come here that they can grow their own delicious food,’ Istvan Markuly of GIY Clonakilty and West Cork Permaculture said. ‘When we first took on the task of making a garden here, we had help from the students from Kinsale College who cleared the area and constructed the raised beds. Now today, after our first season, the garden is ready once again to for us to plant and to prepare for another bumper harvest later in the year.’
Those who come to the Community Garden, be they from the Direct Provision centre, which is located just steps from the garden, or from the local community, get a real hands-on experience when it comes to getting involved with GIY Clonakilty.
‘Education is extremely important and we want to show people, and especially children, just how easy it is to grow their own food. We all have skills to share and we have free workshops that cover everything from seeds to harvesting,’ Istvan said.
The Clonakilty Community garden is now ready for the new growing year with the vegetable beds, and the composter ready to go, the volunteers have planted an orchard with apple and pear trees.
The group has also organised educational and social events at the community garden with volunteers from Sustainable Clonakilty on hand to show just what can be achieved even in a very small space when it comes to protecting the environment.
‘We have a rainwater collector, a composter and we have plans for much much more,’ Stephen McSweeny of Sustainable Clonakilty said. ‘This garden is much more than growing fruits and vegetables. This is a space where we are not only breaking down barriers, it’s a meeting place or a space to come and be part of a growing community that cares about their environment, this is a project that will provide education and support to the local community and to the people who have recently joined us here in Clonakilty.’