Cherry Orchard Community Garden

By Maurice Garvey

OFFERING onions and celery in food parcels did not have the desired effect for a number of service users at a food bank in Cherry Orchard.

“For the onions, we were asked ‘how do I cook that’ and the response for suggestions to mix in celery with other foods was ‘that’s s**t,” said Marie Cronin, SVP vice-president of the area.

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Loui Vangelder, Lar Westwood and Peadar Lynch

“These are young women with children. There is a lot of illness in the area and they may have lost their own mother at a young age and never learned to cook.”

SVP and groups like the Ballyfermot-Chapelizod Partnership have been instrumental in responding to ‘culinary illiteracy’ with the Partnership regularly hosting classes like ‘Healthy Food Made Easy’.

To further improve cooking illiteracy, SVP and Cherry Orchard Community Garden are combining their resources to provide allotment land to a number of service users.

“Ms Cronin continued: “Going forward, we are looking at people going to the food bank and if any of them are interested in going to the community garden, we can give them an allotment for free.

“The community garden is willing to show them how to plant and grow. A plot will be cleared for them to work on.”

The community garden, located beside the Equine Centre, has come on leaps and bounds over the last year. Allotments are currently sold out and there is a waiting list such is demand.

Garden manager Peadar Lynch, from the Partnership, has overseen a majestic growth of new crops and activity from the community.

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Peadar Lynch in the tomato and cucumber tunnell

“SVP have helped us and we help them, it is a good relationship,” said Mr Lynch.

The Echo was at the garden on Wednesday morning, and it has expanded from the time of our last visit in December, with the addition of a further six polytunnels, and an increasing array of vegetables.

Lynch and fellow garden members Loui Vangelder and Lar Westwood, were busy packing some 150 bags of freshly picked salad, set for delivery to SVP and a local café.

“As more places open back up, we will be delivering to them,” said Lynch.

Fresh salad sells for €2 a bag and Echo staff enjoyed a complimentary taste of the salad back in the office.

Onions, cucumbers and chilis are coming along nicely in other tents at the garden, and Vangelder says the kale and potato soup is delicious.

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Packing salad bags

Ultimately the 2-acre site is a social enterprise, but the plan is to make money by selling veg and they will be hosting markets during the Summer.

Horse manure from the Equine Centre is also turned into compost at the garden, who hope to cultivate approximately 260 tonnes of manure a year.

Meanwhile, Cherry Orchard SVP food bank is kept going during Covid-19 by the Partnership, who operate it out of the Civic Centre.

For Ms Cronin and SVP, they know as businesses re-open, that the Partnership are losing some of their food bank volunteers.

“We have to be ready to be up and running, but the food bank in Cherry Orchard will be back,” she said.

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