The History of East Clare Community Co-op & Garden

Food Traditions in Ireland

Ireland has long been recognised for its culture, the beauty of its landscapes and seascapes, the buzz if its cities, and the warmth of its people. Now visitors are coming for its food too.

As a healthy travel option, Ireland has a natural, honest approach to food that’s rooted in tradition and worth making the journey for. From its mild climate, clean seas, fertile soil and high rainfall we have some of the best raw local ingredients in the world. Wonderful wild food foraged from hedgerows and forests and greens picked that same day add to the vibrant freshness of the local food plate.

More and more menus are starting to reflect their surroundings as a new pride in local food culture is emerging and East Clare is no exception.

History of East Clare Community Co-op

East Clare Community Co-operative in County Clare has been in existence for 28 years. It has been the starting point for a number of educational, community, social and entrepreneurial activities and has a strong proven track record of being able to deliver useful and lasting change in the community.

One of these useful developments was Scariff Community Garden which began as a joint initiative of the Co-op and the local Brothers of Charity in 2000. The Co-op had secured a long-term lease on a property centrally situated on Main Street, Scariff with Garden at the rear.

History of East Clare Co-operative & Community GardenThe neighbouring Garden was donated for Community use and a third strip leased off a neighbour, so together the three gardens form Scariff Community Garden roughly a third of an acre with 2 poly tunnels, a Food Theatre Barn area with stage, a men’s shed with wood fired pizza oven inside, a hazel hut, a stone tiled poets circle area, stony steps made with local men on a Community Education course, a permaculture area, forest garden area, and several raised and flat beds with fruit, nuts and vegetables growing all year round.

Some of the developments were volunteer led and created and some have been a joint initiative of the paid staff and volunteers. Talking of staff, in 2007, Pobal funded a part time gardeners position under the Community Services Programme and this was key to securing consistent crops and the development of some kind of plan for the future.

The RSS scheme provided another part-time post in 2013 and with this full-time equivalent, new developments in the garden have been possible with pockets of funding, donations and plants and food sales from the Garden helping to resource the work.

The History of East Clare Community Co-opOver the years CLDC, the local Community development company have used the Garden as a place of learning as part of their horticultural courses and this has enabled some areas to be landscaped. But overall, the garden has evolved organically with the time, energy and vision of the people who have come and added their bit, whether weeding, laying paths, or mosaicing areas to beautify the space, so many hands, hearts and minds have contributed to the garden-saving seeds, singing songs, planting, digging, weeding, weaving, shaping the Garden’s future one action at a time…

Social and Educational

Our Community Garden is the hub of the community, drawing together people from all walks of life, breaking down barriers and allowing neighbours who would not normally meet to come together and share an interest in gardening and nature.

The History of East Clare Community Co-op & GardenFrom an educational point of view, the Community Garden can draw out people’s hidden gifts and talents. It can help to increase people’s awareness of the local environment, social activities that are available, the local wildlife, as well as bringing awareness of local enterprises and what they are contributing to the locality.

At ground level in the planting and management of crops, we all encounter similar problems, and discovering what works, what does not work and why, are some of the challenges that all gardens and gardeners face. With all these elements in mind it is easy to see the potential benefit of sharing experiences between different communities.

History of East Clare Co-operative & Community GardenWe have a vision to move Scariff Community Garden forward to enrich the already abundant produce of the garden with a wider variety of fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants, to nurture further our outreach into the community and to really celebrate the unique gifts and qualities that the garden has to offer all of us.

We are offering access to the skills pool we have here in County Clare through our own garden activities. This is an exciting time in the development of the Garden and the Community Co-op as a whole.

And we have a Café…

History of East Clare Co-operative & Community GardenOur beautiful garden meanders around vegetable beds, fruit trees and bushes and growing tunnels. You can talk to our gardeners while they work and join in with them if you feel like it. Then take yourself indoors to our Garden Café where we serve the best of vegetarian and raw food. Expertly prepared, served simply and fresh as can be is what East Clare Community Co-op’s Garden Café is all about.

Our food is grown on site so producing our own food in the backyard is as fresh and local as it gets. Local people are involved and we like to share our expertise and our food. It’s a simple place with no airs and graces. Also our Garden Café has the best of raw ingredients on site in the Community Garden but it’s the warm and welcoming people who turn this great Café into an experience that visitors will always remember.

All other food served in the Café that doesn’t come from the garden is locally sourced, such as our fresh spelt and gluten-free breads which are made in the next village. Five miles door to door. Tourists love it too, with Summer pop up bistros in the on-site Kitchen/Dining community facility( using garden and other local produce) providing a delicious and relaxing way to sample the food whilst viewing the garden.

Food Market

History of East Clare Co-operative & Community Garden

There’s the chance to meet our local producers on Fridays when we have our local small holders market. Stay and have a chat, there’s always time to talk. Why not ask and learn about their traditional methods of baking! People will be glad to share and it will come from the heart.

As a co-operative community we believe in these small local producers and this is what makes the whole experience personal. It’s these generations of artisan producers that turn this great natural larder around us into masterpieces and experiences that visitors will always remember. If you have a day without a plan, call to see us.

We like to think that we are open and accessible to everybody and that our environment can be a place to chill out and relax – we certainly love it!

Call In

Please call in and have a chat and learn more about our ongoing development. You can find more about our Community Co-operative and Garden and all the work we are doing in Scariff on our website as well as contact details and opening hours.


If you’d like to know more about community gardening in Ireland and how others operate their gardens, please subscribe to the blog and keep up with the in-focus posts over the coming months. If you’re running a community garden and would like to share news about your own project, please contact us and we’ll be pleased to help promote you.

Reflections: Electric Picnic 2015

The Community Garden Network volunteered to help coordinate a pop-up Community & Farm Garden in Global Green at the 2015 Electric Picnic. While we were there we met some inspirational groups and community gardeners from around the island who are now much more aware of the Network and each other.

Dee Sewell of Greenside Up posted a blog about the set up and groups involved, asking the question “Was the Electric Picnic Ready for a Community Garden?” which you can find here. However, the following are some lovely reflections from Fionnuala of East Clare Co-op of her experience there. We hope you enjoy Fionnuala’s poem.

East Clare Co-op at Electric Picnic
Photo Credit: East Clare Co-op

Our Co-op in the Electric Picnic in 2015

Co-creating collaborating in Global Green

We took a look about before setting our stall

(Well in fairness our stall was no stall at all)

We planned 2 round tables out there in the air

For our own eclectic picnic back home in Clare

Off we went with a curious glee

You won’t believe the sights we did see

a huge gold rimmed mirror, a bed in a tree

A stilted man in a skirt and acrobats 3

A big London bus,  a caravan in the air

A machine to de-programme you, tattoos for your hair

Make a wish, Gerry Fish, Giant’s Jug and Chair,

Attention to details, signs of great care

Body paint, tophats,  Oxfam vintage sale

2 men holding hands- at least I think they were male.

In every direction were sights to be seen,

creative, engaging, clever and green.

We were mosaicing all day near big bales of hay

In a beautiful garden that was made in a day

A garden with seedlings, food baskets and knitting

Pallet planters, benches- all perfectly fitting

With its own water feature and exciting bike races

Away from the chaos, a pleasant oasis

A man made of waste, a bomb made of seeds

Surfboards and knitting, without any weeds

Urban and rural we made it all flow

How did we do it? I’ll never know

Duncan Stewart arrived  in no great haste

Resilience, car sharing, giving out about  waste

We must work it together, climate change is here

The crisis, now bad will worsen we fear

I see the boy who lost his life in the sea

A victim, an innocent refugee,

And tears start swelling up in me

We are drowning in a sea of apathy

I want to shout out above this crowd

Wake up! Wake up! Do the Earth proud

Get involved, get connected, share the wisdom inside

Love your community with energy and pride!

The All Ireland final!  We caught the end in a tent

Up Galway we shouted, but those hurlers were spent

The cats got their cream again Ah no surprise there

Not like 13 when we took Liam to Clare

Seorla  from  Sligo with 3 kinds of dancers,

Step, set and seanos – those light footed prancers!

And married men on the tear raving wild on the shots

And Curious faces belonging to tots

We are tiling to beats with a buzz and a boom

And a woman nearby sweeps up with her broom

We took a stroll out in the chilly night air

And feel the vibrations and the wind in our hair

Big wheels, a circus, and architects boxes

A woman with an udder, and  big furry foxes

And a beach down in trenchtown past the big sailing boat

And a hula hoop whirling round some ladies throat

A  gentle black giant nearly 2 metres tall

A chick in a poncho, 2 lads in a brawl

Body and Soul ah we had to see that

Everyone says that’s where It’s at

grass roofs tiny tea, a flirt in a yurt

And man on a fence in a big flowery skirt

A warm fire to sit by and look up at the stars

And wonder of planets like Venus and Mars

And the night amphitheater to dance with the wind

And terrible toilets that look like they’ve sinned

Good Grub, Hot Tub and trees that looked weird

And plenty a young fella wearing a beard

And back to the main drag where anything goes

Bamboozled by choice and led by my nose

Salty dog cottage bog Imagination abound

With a sea of messiness all over the ground

From Clare to Calais, foraging the waste

To house some homeless in another place

What is the time? It is asked of me

Back home to reality

“It’s 10 past debauchery”

A reflection about Electric Picnic 2015
Photo Credit: East Clare Co-op

You can find more about East Clare Community Co-operative Society and all the work they’re doing over in Scariff on their website.

If you’d like to know more about community gardening and how they’re run, subscribe to the blog and we’ll be adding some In-focus posts over the coming months.