A Regenerative agriCulture and Agro-Ecological vision for Galway
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” Masanobu Fukuoka
Scientists have been warning for decades that human actions are pushing life on our shared planet toward mass extinction. Practical solutions require a combination of creativity, conservation, restoration, rewilding, engineering, emergence, transformation, regeneration and sustainable design.
The Galway Permaculture, Agro-Ecological Farming and Edible Forest Project offers a unique lens and opportunities for setting these aims into practice through innovative community and sustainable food systems, creative cultural platforms of engagement and through community education and outreach.
In the coming years leading up to 2020 European Capital of Culture, Galway has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of world cities in transitioning to a regenerative culture necessary for a sustainable future.
Galway was awarded the ‘Green Leaf’ European Environmental designation in 2017, and the European Region of Gastronomy in 2018, creating new opportunities for Galway to fulfil the objectives of these awards, by acting as ‘green ambassadors’ and ‘sustainable food champions’ undertaking new and innovation climate actions, acting as a catalyst for social change, and encouraging other cities and regions to progress towards better sustainability outcomes.
With the Galway Food Forests initiative and proposed Community Agroecological Farm, it is our aim to demonstrate how it is possible to become self sufficient on a small piece of land, while fostering regenerative designs, agri and ecotourism and a self sufficiency for Galway in food production, as well as a safe haven for biodiversity.
In this, we aimed to be guided by the ethics and principles of regenerative agriculture and Permaculture principles, working in harmony with the will of the land itself.
“Permaculture as a movement has most of the knowledge, tools and resources that we need to create a regenerative society in the physical sense.” However, with much discussion now on the importance of cultural transformation and ‘social permaculture’, there is an opportunity to explore a strong emphasis on this aspect of permaculture during this project.
“The harder task lies in transforming our social and invisible systems and as we become more skillful at nurturing our human relations, we believe we will become more effective in every aspect of our work”. The garden is a key to the transformation of the social fabric of the city and county which has the potential to bring meaning and integrity to our arts and culture.
“If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
there, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.”
Ethics for the Urban Garden
In a vision for the Urban Garden we may be guided by the ethics of permaculture.
Care of Earth – Soil
People care – Soul
Return of the surplus to earth and people (Fair share) – Society
Our aims are to influence sustainable community development, environmentally friendly food policy, production and consumption, to follow best practice in developing a local healthy, sustainable and resilient community and food systems, and through learning about our interconnected and interdependent world, imagining and co creating more humane, just and viable ways to live in the world.
Through this project we wish to build new partnerships in Galway between – arts, culture, food and the environment – through liaising with statutory, community and voluntary groups, educational institutions, NGOs and businesses to promote best practice, knowledge, skills and experience around food and sustainable Community food systems .
We advocate for the development and support for innovative community food initiatives, that support right livelihoods, seek improvements in our local food systems, that restores and nurtures the earth and demonstrates equitable access to quality local organic food.
We wish To create…. A place of beauty and aspiration…. a place of Stillness to observe and interact with nature away from the distractions of modern life. A place to experience ecosystem interconnection.
This project aims to offer visitors both a real and an imaginative space that reminds us of our position as one part of a much broader and highly-complex eco and climate system; a system upon which we all equally depend for our survival, health and wellbeing.
We keep in mind at all times the bigger pictures and the ethics of soil, soul and society. By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These will form the backbone of our project.
Poly cultures and BioDiversity – Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
Slow and steady solutions. If we find ourselves in a rush or under too much pressure to please, we may be feeding back into the same addictive society that we want to transform… Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
The garden as a work of art. The artist understands that the ‘mistakes’ are where the real magic happens. So we can creatively use and respond to change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”. We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and acting in harmony with our environment.
We aim to reduce waste, use salvaged materials and use renewable energy and catch and store energy as possible. We also use and value renewable resources and services.
A place of integrity and wholeness. A space for all. We aim to Integrate rather than segregate.
Obtain a good yield. By being sensible and grounded in our approach and mindfull of the seasons, soil type and climate, keeping it simple we can be sure to get the fruits of our labour.
We use all of the spaces that we have for growing and we value the edge and use the marginal. This also includes people and services. We value the marginalised and realise that the interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
Inspiring images and ideas of possible key elements
Create a beautiful design for the garden
Including a diversity of elements, combining the practical with the aesthetic. Take time to observe the site carefully and map out the possibilities.
2. A food forest –
Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodland like patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts.
Our vision is for an Edible Forest Garden in every Galway Town,
Village and City Community
“Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, plums,hazels and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden.”
While each forest gardener will have unique design goals, forest gardening in general has three primary practical intentions:
– High yields of diverse products such as food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, ‘farmaceuticals’ and fun;
-A largely self-maintaining garden and;
-A healthy ecosystem.
3. A sanctuary for wildlife and a habitat which fosters diversity, while
A patch of wildflowers to please the butterfly and bee
Honeybees pollinate more than 90% of the world’s flowering crops, including apples, nuts, broccoli, squash, citrus fruit, berries and melons. Let’s give them a helping hand 🐝
4. A space for learning and education
To have a permaculture Community arts and education hub in Galway (and not just limited to Permaculture of course, but all kinds of sustainable living and learning).
The Outdoor Education Garden would be a place for the crossover of ideas between schools to encourage more contact with nature in the classroom
5. Obtaining a good yield and demonstrating how many members of a group or family can be fed on a small space of land
Obtain a good yield. By being sensible and grounded in our approach and mindfull of the seasons, soil type and climate, keeping it simple we can be sure to get the fruits of our labour.
While employing experimental techniques, the garden should also make enough room to ensure that it is possible to demonstrate how to obtain a good yield from a certain amount of land.
Here are two examples of extreme productivity on very little land:
Growing Power – On a 2-acre urban lot in Milwaukee, Will Allen grows over a million pounds of food every year, including thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, and bees.
The Urban Homestead – A family of four produces all their own food and $60,000 a year on just a fifth of an acre.
Singing Frogs Farm – Just 3 harvested acres on this farm bring in over $100,000 an acre, using low water methods that sequester carbon and generate topsoil.
6. A community led project, involving schools, local community groups,
and marginalised members of society
The garden would be open and accessible to the community to feel welcome to get actively involved. Local schools should be involved in the educational programme. Marginalised members of society such as the travelling community and asylum seekers should be engaged with and welcomed.
7. Valuing the edge and margins
The use of vertical space, edge and margins
8. Including elements of our language and cultural heritage
‘Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam’ – a country without a language is a country without a soul. The garden could be a space for fostering and nurturing a connection to the land and language. As the language has been born of the land itself, we can remember our connection to the land by naming the plants and wildlife. We could also create a space linking native trees with the ancient Ogham alphabet.
9. Grounding the arts in meaning and authenticity
Galway, they say, is bursting at the seams with arts and culture, but it often seems not to have grounding or coherence, though some deem highly intellectually stimulating and/ or entertaining. Here we have the opportunity to make visible another strand of the cultural fabric of the city, connecting the arts with grassroots and the soil, thereby supporting and protecting it from commercial encroachment.
This is an image of the reciprocal frame cob amphitheatre from the permaculture college in Kinsale. This one took a lot of time and many hands to build and maybe we could envisage something similar or on a smaller scale. And it could also double up as a community and cultural hub in the same space.
Small reciprocal frame structures can be made quite easily in a short space of time if there are skilled people on board. One of our members was involved in the Building of a round reciprocal framed house which was made in just one month. It was more of a temporary dwelling but gives an idea of the possibilities.
10. A space which is site sensitive and specific
Sensitive to the cultural heritage of the place we are in… the site in Woodquay is also known as ‘the plots’ highlighting its origins as the food growing garden of Galway.
Another example of this would be –
i.e the woodquay site is where the old railway from Galway to Clifden used to pass by. Some element of this could be highlighted i.e a replica train. There is a greenway which runs from Achill to Westport.. There are now plans to bring this greenway as far as galway and it will be built upon the old railway lines.So if it did come as far as Galway, the walkway could end up in our garden.
The Claddagh also has a uniquely rich cultural history (if we were allocated use of Fr. Griffith park.). and is a unique example of a community who were once very self contained and self sufficient. When the big trawlers began to come into Galway bay, the fishing community refused to relinquish their traditional fishing methods on the grounds that the trawlers would exhaust fishing supplies.. So there is also that wonderful link to sustainability that we wish to tap into.
11. Linking in with environmental groups and community gardens across the city, country and globally
‘Many hands make light work’. Meitheals are a wonderful way of bringing the community together to get a big job done with fun and ease.
The Green Sod Land Trust in Galway are a wonderful organisation at the forefront of rewilding in Ireland. Linking up with this group and others in Galway will provide us with a strong support in carrying through our aims
The urban roof garden in Dublin
Urban gardens in Seattle and Detroit
12. Building natural structures
from recycled/sustainably sourced materials
This pizza oven shelter could alternately be a place for musicians to perform
An alternative to the hobbit house would be i.e conversion of shipping container or train carriage
A geodesic dome, also a possibility. Or a yurt.
13. A family friendly space with play area for children using natural and innovative materials
14. With the possibility of some feathered friends in the garden
15. Using found and recycled materials where possible
16. Employing experimental and alternative growing techniques
17. Urban Beekeeping
Here are some urban beekeepers in Dublin
And here is Seán Taylor, a participant at Galway Convergence 2016 speaking about his art and sustainability project, LUBS, with fellow urban beekeepers in Limerick who have already offered to start us up here in Galway
18. Water features
It would be good to have a water feature, so we should enquire into possibility. Or a very small pond. Alternately, we could demonstrate other permaculture ideas such as reedbed water filtration
19. A Medicinal Herb Garden
20.Using renewable energy
And catching and storing energy
We use renewable energy and catch and store energy. We also use and value renewable resources and services.
And demonstrate low tech experimental techniques for catching and storing energy
21. Engaging passers by, welcoming travellers.. cross pollinating!
Preferably, the garden should be located in as central and visible a location as possible to engage passers by and visitors to the city. It is in this way that there can be a wonderful cross pollination of dreams and ideas. It is at the interface between things where the most interesting events take place.
22. A peaceful healing sanctuary working in Harmony with the will of the land itself
A scene from a Garden designes by Mary Reynolds. Working with the will of the land not only creates a more beautiful and harmonious space but is also much more easily maintained.
*ecosystem: a complex network or interconnected system
We believe the projects we propose here meets the overall objectives of the economic and community elements of the Galway, Local Economic and Community Plan( LECP ) for the protection and enhancement of the quality of life and well-being of communities in Galway.
A key priority of the Galway LECP is to ensure that people can realise their potential and participate in all aspects of life in the city. The LECP commits to strengthening the resilience of local communities to engage and have a meaningful part to play in the decision making that impacts their day-to-day lives.
We believe this project addresses the needs identified in the LECP and wish to utilise this creative project to engage with the people of Galway, and to realise Galways potential as a sustainable resilient city. This project offers local communities the opportunities available and to showcase its power to ignite empathy, passion and learning about our interconnected and interdependent world, imagining and co creating more humane, just and viable ways to live in the world. It connects how we think, live and act in the world and considers how we can live as interconnected beings and global citizens becoming part of the changes we want to see in the world. This programme is aimed at environmentalists, artists, community workers, youth workers, activists educators, volunteers and anyone who is interested in a more sustainable and harmonious way of living.
Key actions and initiatives were identified and agreed for each of the LECP high level goals to strengthen and develop the economic and community dimensions of Galway City over the next six years. These actions reflect the key priorities and policy areas, as agreed by those consulted, and the guiding principles of the LECP.
Some of These key actions are addressed in this project including;
4.4 Provide, maintain and enhance strategic infrastructure that supports economic, cultural, health, environmental and community development
Support the development of vacant sites in Galway City for use as allotments, social enterprise spaces, gardens and social farming and establish an education and training programme to support the development of these areas.
4.5 Support sustainable development through improving the natural environment and providing a housing, energy, transport infrastructure consistent with meeting our commitments on greenhouse gas emissions.
Support development and implementation of a Climate Change Strategy for Galway City.
5.1 Support the implementation of local health and wellbeing related programmes and plans, including those related to mental health,
1.1 Support community-based activity relating to culture and facilitate cultural access and participation, embracing cultural diversity and including everyone.
GCC, GCCN, GCP, Galway 2020, GRETB
2.1 Develop, encourage and create an environment for innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship, including community/social enterprise.
3.1 Deliver local and national social inclusion/ community development programmes to reduce poverty and alleviate disadvantage
3.3 Address educational disadvantage. Provide targeted educational supports. Provide and promote educational opportunities for those who are underemployed, unemployed and those wishing to upskill and/or retrain
3.4 Ensure full integration and equality of all people within our community
Recognise and support the value that diversity brings to the City Region
4.3 Build and support vibrant communities and a strong sense of place.
Support Lifelong Learning and initiatives to support access to education.
Enable the provision of funding for grass roots and community development support agencies. Support recreation and community facilities/amenities, where possible, and ensure they are adequate to cater for the needs of Galway City.
Soil, soul and society: Satish Kumar at TEDxExeter (youtube)
Farming – The Gandhian Way – A Tribute to Shri. BHASKAR SAVE (youtube)