This event was organised by Dee Sewell, of the Community Garden Network, with the aim of creating a community garden network in Carlow.

Green Communities delivered a talk about the aims and successes of both Green Communities, and Dublin Community Growers, as networks to promote community gardening and to provide self supporting networks for these important initiatives.

The objective of the day was to create a Carlow network of community gardens and to explore the possibility of community gardens becoming places of environmental outdoor education as well as for gardening and food.

Robert Moss spoke about Dublin Community Growers being set up in 2009 as a knowledge resource for community garden initiatives across Dublin. At that time many new community gardens were being established and faced an arduous genesis. Issues such as permission, insurance, equipment, resources, site access, and attracting volunteers were all formidable challenges that each garden was having to painfully resolve on their own. An organisation that pooled knowledge was required, and Dublin Community Growers established regular monthly meetings so that gardeners could seek advice and swap information. Probably the greatest success of Dublin Community Growers is in promoting community gardens as a important aspect of community development in the eyes of the 4 Dublin local authorities and beyond.

Robert also explained the evolution of the Green Communities Programme. This now exists as a network of over 30 member groups across Dublin. Green Communities provides monthly training events, field trips, ground work, and the necessary insurance for community gardens to operate within the public realm. Most importantly it provides a self supporting network of like minded community groups.

After the talks and questions we were then given a tour around the site of the new An Gairdin Beo within the grounds of St. Leo's Convent. The site has huge potential as wildlife refuge as well as a community garden.

After lunch we then had a brainstorming session as to how to go about establishing a community garden network within Carlow. It was suggested that each of the 9 community gardens across Carlow organise and host a Carlow Community Garden Network event throughout the year. These may involve open days, harvest festivals, workshops, BBQ, or meitheal. The other community gardens will attend and assist as much as possible. This may avoid the need for centralised administration which is very demanding on the time of volunteers and can detract from the activity of gardening. It would also create an entity with a formidible programme of events better placed to attract volunteers and funding. It was also pointed out by one of the speakers that the new SICAP funding has a mandate to favour networks of collaborative groups.

All in all a very productive day. Many thanks to Dee Sewell for organising the event, and to all the An Gairdin Beo crew for their hospitality.

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Green Communities