Community Growers Spring Gathering 2nd March 2024 – Report

Posted on: 03/03/2024
Some of the attendees of Community Gardens Ireland and Social Farms & Gardens Northern Ireland’s Spring Gathering 2024!

On Saturday 2nd March @ 11am, the Community Gardens Ireland (CG) and Social Farms and Gardens Northern Ireland (SFGNI) Spring Gathering event was held on Zoom. This was the third time our two organisations had worked together on this event.

In recent years CGI and SFGNI we had a grant to directly support this activity. Unfortunately we held this event without any funding to support it, but we did regardless because of how this event brings communities together.

These online gathering started during Covid-19 and the numbers show how much of a success it has become – in 2022, 62 people registered for this event. In 2023, it more than doubled to 149. For 2024’s event, 216 people registered to attend! This is now the largest annual gathering of community growers on the island of Ireland.

The 2024 gathering was absolutely jam packed in terms of an agenda! It was recorded and the YouTube link is now available here:

Some of the highlights of the gathering is detailed below:

Welcome by SFGNI and CGI

Patricia from SFGNI and Dónal from CGI both opened proceedings for the gathering and welcomed all who attended the gathering. The theme for 2024 was Food Education and both speakers were keen to highlight the positive elements of local community food production and how it helps communities learn about ways to come together through food.

Gardens / Growers Presentations

First project up was the Edible Landscape Project in Westport, Co. Mayo. Caitríona gave an update on the amazing work that has been done locally, including work carried out with local primary schools:

The second project was presented by Gary Clarke from Louth Urban Food Sanctuary! Gary showed us the background of how the brilliant Louth Urban Food Sanctuary came about, how it connects with members of the local community, and how it educates local residents on growing food locally:

The third project up was the excellent Scoil Bernadette in Cork. Kevin Byrne, Sarah O’Connell and Denise Lynch who are teachers at the school presented an inspirational video of the students learning how to grow food locally while also providing a positive space for biodiversity:

The last presentation of local community growers was Kathy McKnight from Holy Family Primary School in Omagh. Kathy showed the challenges and setbacks that had been faced with establishing a school garden in Omagh Co. Tyrone, and how she and the local community has overcome these challenges to provide a truly special place:

A huge thank you to all our local presenters! This is always one of our favourite parts of our spring gathering as highlights some amazing local growing spaces to communities from all over the island of Ireland.

Presentation by Social Farms & Gardens Northern Ireland on implementation of Benchmark Standard for Community Growing & Allotment Provision / Right to Grow at Belfast City Council

Patricia from SFGNI then took the meeting through some of the developments in Northern Ireland. In recent years, SFGNI have published a benchmark standard for community growing and allotment provision in Northern Ireland. This work mirrors similar work that has been completed by Community Gardens Ireland in the south.

One of the most exciting developments from SFGNI’s work is how Belfast City Council have recently adopted a Right to Grow in 2023 – which is the first local authority in Ireland to do so! This is such an important step for communities, especially given the current lack of requirements on local authorities to provide allotments or community gardens where demand is present.

Presentation by Marc Ó Cathasaigh TD with an update to the Community Gardens Bill 2023

Next we had an update from Marc Ó Cathasaigh TD on the Community Gardens Bill. In October 2023, Marc published his Community Gardens Bill, which was a document that has leant heavily on work and research completed by Community Gardens Ireland, including the Chairperson Dónal McCormack and Committee Member Justyna Traore.

Marc mentioned the current status of the Community Gardens Bill in that it has passed the first stage, but also gave a fresh update on activities on the Planning and Development Bill, in that Minister Kieran O’Donnell has agreed to accept (and review) a definition for community gardens into the Planning and Development Bill.

This is a hugely important step as it means that community gardens will now be defined in law for the first time (note: allotments are already defined in law). Once community gardens are defined in law, then the next step would be to get a stronger requirement for local authorities to plan for both allotments and community gardens, respond to demand, and complete administrative tasks such as keeping a waiting list etc.

Presentation by Hans Zomer & Global Action Plan

Our final presenter of the day was Hans Zomer of the Global Action Plan (GAP). Hans took us through the brilliant work that Global Action Plan are doing from their Climate Heroes programme, to their GLAS Community Garden, the links and benefits of these spaces to biodiversity.

Hans also highlighted research completed recently by GAP and how beneficial it is for organisations who are working in the same area to work together. More details of Global Action Plan and their activities are here:

The gathering then went to Q&A and then breakout sessions, where people from all over could ask questions, share thoughts of what they had seen on the day, and go through if there were opportunities for replication locally!

The gathering finished and then the CGI Committee then proceed to hold their yearly AGM. More details to be posted on this in a separate post with links to the presentations.

The gathering is the main opportunity for communities who grow from all over the island of Ireland to come together and make new connections. It is the largest gathering of community growers in Ireland and is a hugely important event each year for CGI and SFGNI. As always the day went smoothly and it was a well run event, and a huge thanks to Patricia, Miriam and Conor from SFGNI along to all of the CGI Committee for the smooth running, publicising and working together for the yearly gathering.

The next major event for CGI is for National Allotments and Community Gardens Week, which is taking place from 12-19th October 2024 – more details here!

Posted on 03/03/24 by Dónal McCormack – for more details on any of the above, please email

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