End of Year Report by Community Gardens Ireland – 2023

Posted on: 22/12/2023
Collage of some activities by Community Gardens Ireland in 2023!

It’s been another incredibly busy 12 months for all of us at Community Gardens Ireland!

Before you read further, we would welcome any support you can give to our organisation to help us on our mission to get as many communities in Ireland growing as possible. All donations go towards us paying our operating costs (e.g. Zoom membership, website fees, bank fees, etc.).

Our organisation does not receive any funding so any support or donations you can give will help us concentrate on promoting and supporting new and existing community gardens and allotments.

Here are some of the highlights:

1) AGM & Spring Virtual Gathering, March 2023

In March 2023 we held a joint online gathering with Social Farms & Gardens Northern Ireland (SFGNI) and Community Gardens Ireland (CGI). The event was hugely successful with 149 people registering for the event.

The event included updates given by growers north and south, along with policy updates from SFGNI & CGI.

First up was Jarlath at the Strabane Health Improvement Project which is an incredible community & local food journey of Health & Well-being that has been delivered in Strabane since 2004!

After this we heard from Ciarán from Taplin’s Field, which is in Bridgefoot Street Park in Dublin and is the first purpose-built community garden in a Dublin City Council park!

Barry from The Glen Community Garden in Cork then went through their brilliant activities and how they became winners of a special Pride of Place award in 2022 because of their huge contribution to the local community!

Caroline from Merlin Woods Community Garden in Galway then highlighted the excellent community activities taking place and how they were established by volunteers over 10 years ago!

For policy updates, Miriam from SFGNI who highlighted the work they had completed on their excellent Benchmark Standard for Community Growing and Allotment Provision in Northern Ireland.

CGI’s Dónal then went through an update on the Planning and Development Bill, how the gap was discovered, what was done to close the gap and details on the submission made earlier in 2023.

Attendees to the Spring Gathering also voted unanimously to back our joint call for revised legislation so local authorities must provide allotments and community gardens where demand is present.

Following the event, we held our AGM and invited new members to join our committee.

2) Over 50 Consultations Contributed To in 2023

Community Gardens Ireland have a history of contributing positively to public consultations by making well researched and considered submissions. Throughout 2023 we have been busy contributing to consultations, making submissions and highlighting where more support and an improved policy framework is required to encourage more community growing spaces.

This year we managed to make over 50 consultations, presentations and requests for articles during the year on the following:

  • Climate Action Plan Expert Advice 2024
  • Planning & Development Bill (several submissions on this)
  • All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Yearly Supporter Review
  • Sustainable and Compact Settlements Guidelines for Planning Authorities – April 2023
  • Horticulture Strategy 2023-2027
  • Pre-budget submission to the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community & Rural Development & the Islands 2023
  • Statement of Strategy for Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage
  • Presentation to Dublin Community Growers Spring Gathering
  • Statement of Strategy of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
  • Meeting with Minister O’Donnell and Minister Noonan, June 2023
  • Articles / interviews with RTÉ, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, and other media
  • Submission for continuation of GRÁ Ireland project with Social Farms & Gardens Northern Ireland
  • Submission for recommendations for the Census 2027
  • Strategy for Migrant Integration
  • Bus Connects – Cork
  • Presentation to 12th European Forum of European Coordination of Let’s Liberate Diversity (ECLLD) in Trinity College Dublin, as organised by Irish Seed Savers Association
  • Community growing discussions at Electric Picnic, September 2023
  • 31 separate submissions to local authority climate actions plans, October to December 2023

3) Legislation Updates in 2023 – Planning and Development Bill, Community Gardens Bill & meeting with Minister Kieran O’Donnell & Minister Malcolm Noonan, June 2023

In February 2023, we discovered that the draft text of the Planning and Development Bill had deleted all mention of allotments. We immediately launched an online campaign calling for people to get in contact with TDs and Senators to outline their opposition to this. The response was incredible from communities all over Ireland, and this quickly led to confirmation being issued that the deletion of allotments from the draft bill was an omission and would be rectified in the final draft of the bill.

Following the public outcry from the Planning and Development Bill, we met Minister Kieran O’Donnell and Minister Malcolm Noonan and highlighted our case for a strong community growing law in Ireland, and major issues with the current system.

We continued to press strongly throughout 2023 for any review of the planning and development bill to include community gardens and will do so in 2024 onwards.

Separately in 2023, we contributed to the development of the first ever Community Gardens Bill, which is a very positive step forward for communities:

I would like to thank Justyna and other members of Community Gardens Ireland, including the chairperson, Dónal McCormack, for their extensive input in the development of this Bill. Their pre-budget submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, of which I am Leas-Chathaoirleach, was one of the most detailed and practical submissions that we received and many of the legislative provisions they recommended are reflected in the Bill.

Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Dáil debate on Community Gardens Bill, October 2023

We will be continuing to push for the enactment of this Bill and for the Planning and Development Bill to include community gardens, given the importance of this bill to enable local authorities to plan to reserve land for community use.

4) President Higgins, Áras an Uachtaráin, June 2023

In June 2023, Community Gardens Ireland and Dublin Community Growers were invited to Áras an Uachtaráin as part of a celebration of community groups from all over Ireland.

Our Chairperson Dónal McCormack met President Higgins and thanked him for his support of community gardens, and how he called at Bloom 2023 for how “we need more and more community gardens”.

5) Community Gardens Ireland Autumn Gathering in Cork – 14th October 2023

In October 2023 we held our yearly in-person gathering in Cork City!

The event started in the Glen Community Garden with an address by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy. Barry Hickey gave a tour of The Glen Community Garden Tour. We had amazing lunch catered by MyGoodness, and then had a Garden Tour of Togher Community Garden Tour with Maria Young.

We included a seed sharing table at the event which allowed people to stock up on locally saved seed from all over Ireland. We also encouraged people to chat to each other and create their own connections with community growers from all over Ireland.

On the day we also formally launched the first ever National Allotments and Community Gardens Week at the Autumn Gathering!

A huge thank to you all the gardens, speakers, attendees, the Lord Mayor of Cork, and everyone for helping to make this one of the largest gatherings we have seen.

The day was kindly supported by The Glen Resource Centre, HSE/HAZ, My Goodness Food and Green Spaces for Health.

6) National Allotments & Community Gardens Week: 14th – 21st October 2023

A huge thank you to all the community groups all over the country who took part in the first ever National Allotments and Community Gardens Week 14th – 21st October 2023! It was an incredibly busy week and we were overjoyed to see so many community-led initiatives be highlighted over the week.

Here are some highlights:

1. There were over 30 community-led events taking place all over the country during the week! More details on the events that took place are here.

2. We formally launched National Allotments and Community Gardens Week with the Lord Mayor of Cork, Kieran McCarthy at The Glen Community Garden.

3. Our Autumn Gathering took place on the same day on the 14th of October in The Glen Community Garden, we had food from My Goodness, and we visited Togher Community Garden. The day was exceptional and thank you to all the cork gardens for the day!

4. Our 2023 theme for National Allotments and Community Gardens week was #GrowingWithNature and we loved to see so many gardens post images and videos of their growing spaces over the week – thank you again!

5. We launched 8 videos of gardens all over Ireland to showcase these amazing spaces:

6. Quickcrop.ie have offered a 10% discount code for all community gardeners in Ireland! This is a code valid until September 2024 and is offered to all gardens or allotments that are signed up to our map. To find out more details on this, check out the post here.

7. We loved seeing and watching so many gardens highlighted in local media and in the national media. Special shout out to Reilly’s Community Garden for their time on RTÉ’s Today Show on Thursday – if you didn’t see it, you can catch up here!

8. A new Private Member’s Bill was launched by Marc Ó Cathasaigh TD on Wednesday which proposed recognising and making it easier to set up community gardens for the first time. More details here!

This is just a flavour of what happened during National Allotments and Community Gardens Week 2023! We are running this event again next year from the 12th to 19th October 2024!

This week was run without any funding for the first year. We would welcome any donations or sponsorship to help run this event in future years – more details about donating and sponsorship are here.

7) Community Gardens Ireland @ Electric Picnic

We returned to Global Green at Electric Picnic this year! Ellie Donovan, Dee Sewell, Molly Garvey, Miren Samper from the Community Gardens Ireland committee along with other volunteers organised an amazing pop-up community garden & gave advice to interested growers from all over Ireland.

The team also contributed to talks held at Global Green!

More details here: https://www.facebook.com/cgireland.org/posts/pfbid0216dG3zku9n3K1r1hiJke5hjhryLrWETBaVBvWyfjPsTSC5pcEd7dACjqaEoiKVqAl?locale=gl_ES

8) All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2023 Annual Review

We recently gave an update for the work we have completed as part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2023 Annual Review. We are proud of our work supporting the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan at an All-Ireland level, and can point to activities we have completed this year such as seed sharing at events and climate change / biodiversity loss consultations we have contributed to.

Details of our update and other companies are available on the AIPP website here.

9) Radio, TV & Newspaper Publicity

In 2023 we were successful in getting a number of press releases printed in local & national media and interviews on the radio. The following are a list of our press releases & actions printed in the media / on the radio in 2023:

10) Supporting new and existing gardens

Our team of volunteers continued to help supporting new and existing gardens by answering queries, helping to set up new gardens, providing support for existing gardens, information about school gardens, insurance details and sources of funding.

Direct Correspondence:

Our team of volunteers continued helped with queries or advice from all over the island of Ireland for the setting up of new gardens and help with existing community growing initiatives. These queries were by email, on our Facebook group, by Facebook messenger, or in person at our gatherings!

Map:

Since 1st Jan 2023, 21 new gardens have joined the CGI network and are now up on the CGI map. We also helped promote new gardens on our social media that contacted us. Is your community growing space on our map yet?

Social Media:

Facebook – our Facebook page has grown to 5,000 followers, with there being 3,900 members on our Facebook group.

Twitter – our following on Twitter has grown to over 2,400 followers.

Instagram – we reactivated our Community Gardens Ireland Instagram account in 2023.

Website – we had the most viewers on our website in 2023 since it went live in 2015, with October 2023 being the biggest month (National Allotments and Community Gardens Week).

If you have a query, get in contact at info@cgireland.org or check out our Facebook and Twitter accounts!

11) New committee members

In the first few months we welcomed new members to the Community Gardens Ireland committee, including:

Molly Garvey (Co. Cork and Community Gardener), Maria Young (Co-ordinator of Green Spaces for Health, Cork City), Jenny Lyons (Urban Agriculture Researcher, MA Gastronomy and Food Studies, TU Dublin), Emilia Zagrean (Greystones and Kilcoole Community Garden, Wicklow) and Ray Harte (Men’s Sheds Portlaoise Community Garden & Graham-Haslam-Whelan Community Garden).

The current list of Community Gardens Ireland committee members for 2023/2024 are as follows:

  • Maeve Foreman – Mud Island Community Garden, North East Inner City (NEIC), Dublin 3
  • Claire Lyons – Cherry Orchard Community Garden, Dublin 10
  • Dónal McCormack – Blessington Allotments, Wicklow (current chairperson)
  • Conor O’Kane – Social Farms and Gardens Northern Ireland
  • Órlaigh Sally – Co. Tyrone therapeutic horticulture teacher and Community Gardener (current treasurer)
  • Miren Samper – Bloomin Crumlin Allotment / Community Garden
  • Justyna Traore – Top of the City Community Garden, Waterford
  • Ellie Donovan – Community Gardening Tutor with Cork ETB, Cork (current secretary)
  • Emilia Zagrean – Greystones and Kilcoole Community Garden, Wicklow
  • Jenny Lyons – Urban Agriculture Researcher, MA Gastronomy and Food Studies, TU Dublin
  • Ray Harte – Men’s Sheds Portlaoise Community Garden & Graham-Haslam-Whelan Community Garden
  • Molly Garvey – Co. Cork and Community Gardener
  • Maria Young – Co-ordinator of Green Spaces for Health, Cork City

Thank you to our new committee members and existing committee members for everything in 2023!

12) What’s next in 2024?

We will continue to work with Ministers, TDs and Senators to introduce a stronger community growing law in Ireland. We will also work with other organisations to help pursue our goals.

We will be hosting an online gathering in early March (preliminary date of Saturday 9th March) – keep an eye on our social media for details about this!

We will be holding National Allotments and Community Gardens Week from 12th – 19th October 2024, with the theme being “Healthy Soil” – save the date!

Community Gardens Ireland is a purely volunteer-led organisation. If you are a community grower and want to get involved or want to find out more, get in contact at info@cgireland.org or check out our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Check out the Community Gardens map of Ireland – is your local garden on it? If not, see here to add it!

Lastly, we need your help to achieve our goals and to ensure that there is a strong community growing law in Ireland. Please consider donating to help us on our mission to get communities throughout Ireland growing.

Photo credits – Maeve Foreman, Justyna Traore, Miren Samper, Maria Young, Dee Sewell, Conor O’Kane, Dónal McCormack – for any omissions on this list or questions on anything above, email us at info@cgireland.org!

Posted by Dónal McCormack, Chairperson of Community Gardens Ireland – 22/12/23

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