The Power of Local Food

 

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 Michal O Hare, Monaghan Allotment Society; Verona McGettigan, Ballinode Tidy Towns, Mícheál Callaghan, MEG; on a recent visit to the newly developed allotments at Killygoan, Monaghan.

On a recent visit to the new allotments at Killygoan, Monaghan, Mícheál Callaghan of MEG, saw first hand the positive impact local food projects can have on local communities.

We live in an era when we have more food available to us than ever before, with fewer people than ever involved in agriculture. We can go to our local supermarket and buy kiwi fruit from New Zealand or Coconut from the Tropics. Much of the food we produce in Ireland is exported to other countries. As well as resulting in increased emissions from large food miles, this systems of global food production also undermines local food security and often benefits large retailers at expense of smaller producers. This has a negative impact on smaller food retailers and local producers and leaves local communities more vulnerable to disruptions to this supply chain. The recent horse meat scandal showed some of the issues associated with large scale, globalised food production.

Local food production and market gardening can provide local jobs, boost food security and build community links. As well as this, food produced locally for local markets is easily traceable with consumers often having a direct relationship with the producer.

Allotments

Over the space of a few short weeks this Spring, volunteers from Monaghan Allotment Society and the Killygoan area of Monaghan Town, transformed an idle field to a vibrant community growing space, at Killygoan. Twelve people are now the proud holders of allotment plots, growing all kinds of vegetables and learning new skills. On a recent visit to the site, this MEG member was struck by how busy the site was and how much enthusiasm and pride those present showed for their plots. As well as improving local food security and helping to develop new growing skills, the development of the site has brought people together and built new links, acting as a new focal point for the community. It is a testament to what can be achieved when a community comes together to realise a common goal. As well as the allotments in Monaghan Town, Monaghan Allotment Society have two sites in Tydavnet and wish to develop further allotments in Monaghan Town.

Castleblayney is well served with community food projects. The mid – Monaghan town has three community gardens, with an allotment currently being developed in the town, thanks to the work of Castleblayney Community Gardens and the Castleblayney Enterprise Project.

MEG is also currently working with Ballinode Tidy Towns to develop a community garden and allotments at Cappog, Ballinode.

GIY

Grow It Yourself is a national organisation which aims to encourage people to grow their own food, using whatever space they have available, whether that be a small window box or a small farm. Their website has a wealth of information and tips for growers and first timers. GIY Monaghan meet on a monthly basis in the Market House, Monaghan, and their meetings feature guest speakers and provide opportunity to exchange tips and advice with other growers. Their meetings are open to all and they can be contacted at giymonaghan@gmail.com

Transition Towns

Transition Towns is a growing international movement, founded in Kinsale, which seeks innovative ways to build community resilience in response to the social, economic and environmental effects of Climate Change. The aim is to bring people together, through skill sharing and networking, in order to build more sustainable towns and villages, providing jobs and opportunities which will enable communities to flourish in a less energy rich world. A report commissioned by Transition Town Totnes, in England, states that harnessing just 10% of the demand for local goods and services in the sectors of food, renewable energy, retro fitting and Care & Health, could add up to £5 million to the local economy, provide hundreds of jobs and lessen the impact on the environment.

Monaghan Ecological Group (MEG) is a recently formed Transition Initiative which aims to harness the potential for a more positive local economy and society at local level.

Ballybay Food Event

 MEG is organising a local food networking event in the Ballybay Wetlands Centre on Friday 23 August. All are welcome to attend, and it will be of particular interest to those interested in the local food economy and sustainability. It will provide an opportunity for organisations, public representatives and individuals to come together, enjoy locally produced food and learn more about the work of MEG in the relaxed setting of Ballybay Wetlands Centre. All food on the evening will be provided by local growers and producers. Local musicians will provide the backdrop for what will be a celebration of the power of what can be achieved at community level. The event will open with an address from a prominent figure in the Transition Movement.

For more information about MEG please contact monecogroup@gmail.com

Useful Resources

Monaghan Ecological Group – www.monecogroup.wordpress.com

GIY Ireland – www.giyireland.com

Transition Network – www.transitionculture.orgwww.transitiontownsireland.ning.com