The History of East Clare Community Co-op & GardenPosted on: 18/12/2015
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.
The 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.
Over 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.
From 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.
We 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…
Our 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.
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!
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.