The Living Earth – Panel Discussion Galway Food Festival April 15th

The Living Earth’

The seed, the plant, the soil, our health, and our society, are all part of the same whole… mechanistic practices are not the determinants of our world.. interconnectedness and relationships are”

Vandana Shiva


As part of this year’s Community Food and Permaculture Project, Third Space Galway curates a discussion on Sustainable Community Food Systems, Food Sovereignty and environmentally sound agroecological farming practices, as part of this year’s Galway Food Festival programme on Sat April 15th at 2.30pm

‘How can we feed ourselves and live more sustainably using restorative agroecological and regenerative ecological design practices and taking collective community action?”

”How can we support and provide the necessary learning tools for gardeners, farmers and communities who wish to focus on building healthy Food Systems and healthy soil, and give voice to permaculture and biodynamic agriculture’s role in mitigating the impacts of climate change’.”

“How can we build on the movements and achievements elsewhere, for example the Cork Food Policy Council, and the People’s Food Policy organizations whose vision is “ of a food system where everybody, regardless of income, status or background, has secure access to enough good food at all times, without compromising on the wellbeing of people, the health of the environment and the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.”

Guests include;

Dr. Colin Sage, UCC and Chair of the Cork Food Policy Council, part of Cork Healthy Cities programme, which we aim to explore as a model for Galway and Galway’s European Region of Gastronomy programme.

Also participating are three of Ireland’s most renowned Organic and Biodynamic growers;

local Galway Grower, Slow Food member and Horticulture Trainer, Cait Curran,

Kevin Dudley Biodynamic Farmer from Cloughjordan Eco Village Community Farm, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA )

and Suzi Chan.. one of the leading Permaculture trainers in the country.

chaired by JPMcMahon

We will also hear from Istvan Markuly, Agroforestry specialist from the West Cork Permaculture Project and one of the Permaculture Advisors to the Third Space Galway’s Edible Forest Garden project.

As part of this year’s Galway Food Festival, our panel discussion aims to highlight and showcase the many people already engaged in areas of both practice and policy in creating and developing the vision for a more sustainable food system for Ireland.

We aim to invite critical reflection from all involved in the sector, including our artists and local communities, on how we can collectively respond to the current demands for more sustainable healthier practices in food production in Galway. And utilising upcoming opportunities, as we host the European Region of Gastronomy in 2018, explore how we can best support collective community action and restorative agroecological practices in order to expand and develop across the region.

Ireland has now one of the fastest growing organic food sectors globally, but with only 2% certified organic growers in the country we are importing almost 70% of organic horticulture produce sold in Ireland”, highlighting the scale of the missed opportunities for the local sector.

The Irish food industry sells itself as the home of green, environmentally-friendly farming. Yet it is home to only 1,787 certified organic farmers – around 2% of the total number of farmers and well below the European average.

Only 1% of Irish farms grow vegetables which is the lowest percentage across all other member states in the EU, the latest eurostat figures show. The figures also show that only 0.2% of the EU’s vegetables and 0.1% of its apples are grown in Ireland.

According to FiBL – the independent research institute for organic agriculture – Irish consumers spent €31 per capita on organic food in 2015, up 23pc on 2014, indicating Irish consumers want fresh, healthy, Irish-grown produce.

It is increasingly recognised that the environmentally sound future of farming involves producing our own food within a balanced, self-sustaining ecosystem using restorative and regenerative agroecology.

According to a new EU report, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Ireland has the least climate-efficient agricultural sector in Europe, indicating that Ireland emits more greenhouse gas emissions per euro of agricultural output than any other EU member state.

Ireland is not on track to meet its climate targets for 2020 and 2030, with agriculture the single largest contributor to our overall greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for one-third of the total. According to the EPA, agriculture emissions increased by 1.5% in 2015, and are projected to increase by 6-7% for the period 2014 to 2020, mainly owing to methane from livestock.

A recent UN report, urged a move to more sustainable farming methods, where the authors state, “It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.” They do not just denounce the use of pesticides, but call for a total move away from industrial agricultural farming destroying and depleting the earth.

UN report claims’ agroecology and not pesticides is the future of food’… ‘and calls for food systems change, where all citizens have a right to food that has been produced in a way that is safe for both human health and for the environment.’

United Nations: Agroecology, not Pesticides, is the Future for Food

Recent research also reveals, ‘Farms could slash pesticide use without losses’ – A recent study shows almost all farms could significantly cut chemical use while producing as much food, in a major challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry. “Many farmers want to reduce pesticide use but do not have good access to information on alternatives, scientists say”

In response to the recent EU report on Irish emissions, a statement by IFA environmental chairman, Thomas Cooney, on Monday April 3rd, said that NGOs “sit in judgement and criticism of the sustainable development of the agri-food sector, while providing no alternative vision for the sector.”

As part of this year’s Galway Food Festival, our panel discussion on ‘Sustainable Community Food Systems’ aims to highlight and showcase the many people already engaged in areas of both practice and policy in creating and developing the alternative vision of a sustainable food system for Ireland.



We will also host the Irish Environmental Networks “People 4 Soil” campaign, which is a free and open network of European NGOs, research institutes, farmers associations and environmental groups, who are very worried about the increasing degradation of soils both in the EU and at global level…

“Over 95% of our food comes either directly or indirectly from our soil. Unless we prevent the continued degradation of Ireland’s soils, our ability to produce healthy, good quality food now and in the future will be seriously jeapardised. Soil is a non-renewable resource. It takes 1,000 years for just 1cm of topsoil to form, yet around the world, we are losing the equivalent of 30 football pitches of fertile soil every single minute”.

“We are calling on the European Commission to pass a Soil Directive which would safeguard Irish and European soils. We are doing this using a European Citizen’s Initiative petition – the official way for ordinary Europeans to call on the European Commission to act on the things citizens care about” please find a link to their petition

Irish agriculture is the least climate-efficient in the EU

About Us: Third Space is a Galway based, grassroots, arts and research collective, an interdisciplinary and community space for critical reflection and creative practice. Our objective is to foster and cultivate a deeper awareness of art in relation to all aspects of contemporary life and culture, acting as a creative and activist platform for action research, participative and socially engaged arts practices and public engagement.

Our current aims are to act on, research, influence and inform food policy, production and consumption, prevent food waste and to follow best practice in developing local healthy, sustainable and resilient food systems, and through re-learning about our interconnected and interdependent world, imagining and co creating more humane, just and viable ways to live in the world

We wish to build new links and partnerships in Galway – between arts, culture, health and wellbeing, food and the environment – through liaising with statutory, community, youth and voluntary groups, educational institutions, NGOs and businesses, to promote best practice, knowledge, skills and experience around local sustainable community food systems and restorative agroecological practices, as a catalyst for climate action and social change.

We wish to advocate for and assist in the development and support of innovative community food initiatives, that seek the necessary improvements in our food systems, support right livelihoods, restores and nurtures the earth, and demonstrates equitable access to quality local organic food.

Our most recent project work includes hosting training and public discussions on Permaculture, with specific interest in exploring Social Permaculture  and Restorative agroecological farming practices, and the development of a demonstration Edible Forest Garden, in partnership with the local community, Youth Work Ireland -Galway, Westside project, Galway City Council, Westside Community Garden, Lets Get Galway Growing – Galway City Partnership, Healthy Cities Programme, HSE, 126 Artist led Space, Post Carbon Galway, Conservation Volunteers Galway, GRETB, Galway Food Festival and Slow Food Galway.

A Forest Garden is the demonstration of environmentally sound farming practices which involves producing food within a balanced, self-sustaining ecosystem using restorative and regenerative agroecology. It is a way of working with nature to grow and nurture Edible Ecosystems, of crops like fruit, nuts, berries, perennial vegetables, herbs and salad leaves… for food, fuel, medicine and fibre

Based on the principles of Permaculture, copying the seven layers of growth to be found in natural woodland systems, and supporting pollinators and polycultures, it aims to safeguard and choose biodiversity, over artificial mono cultures, reduce waste, increase soil fertility without using chemical fertilizers, and control pest and weeds without dangerous pesticides.


Irish agriculture is the least climate-efficient in the EU

1. Cait Curran, Galway Biodynamic Grower

2. Kevin Dudley, CSA Cloughjordan Eco Village, Biodynamic Grower and former Orchard Manager of ISSA


3. Suzie Chan, Permaculture Trainer and Organic Grower

4. Dr. Colin Sage, UCC and Cork Food Policy Council –


This talk has been initiated by Third Space Galway, as part of their ongoing Edible City, activist art, food and permaculture project.