Growing Together for a Healthy City. Cork Food Policy Harvest Festival

Growing Together for a Healthy City
Cork Food Policy Harvest Festival 2018
Members of the Churchfield Community Trust

“We are training people who are on the CE scheme. Some may have fallen out of the normal routine and we give them the opportunity to get back into it.” Micheál is a team leader with the Churchfield Community Trust and he was telling me about their horticultural work and its results. “We deliver to CUH every week.” 

I met Micheál and his colleagues at the plaza in front of the Old Butter Market in Shandon last Saturday. They were one of many groups taking part in the Cork Food Policy Harvest Festival.

And then he and his fellow team members showed me some of the attractive seasonal vegetables they are harvesting in their garden (Garrai an Aonaigh) at the old St Finbarr’s College at Farranferris at the moment. Others on the team include Emma, Frances, Padraig and Mairead.
Deputy Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald serving the public!

At present, with the winter just around the corner, they are concentrating on over-wintering greens, such as Pak Choi, Kales, Spinach, and Swiss Chard. The Horticulture venture is just one of the three helping arms of the trust. Aside from supplying CUH, they also supply their own Garden Café and this gives the trainees experience in hygiene and packing.
More clay, less plastic

That café is rather special and is based on the grounds of the Cork Foyer (formerly the Assumption Convent) and is located in a beautiful Victorian style glasshouse. It offers spectacular views of Blackpool and is open daily from April to October and Monday to Friday each week for morning coffee, freshly baked scones, brownies and flap jacks.

Along with the horticulture and the cafe, they also produce a range of Handmade Wooden Creche and Pre–School products at their purpose built workshop at Churchfield, Cork. “These products have been designed and developed by our work shop manager who gives guidance and instruction in the production of items such as bespoke tables and chairs.” And they are for sale! 

800 people fed with delicious warming Curry

Gardening and health was more or less the theme for the weekend events where Hydrofarm Allotments, Shandon Area Community Green Garden and the St Stephen’s Sustainable Food Lab were among other groups taking part in the weekend’s activities.

And I came across more at the Harvest Fest Finalé in Fitzgerald’s Park on Sunday where some 800 visitors were fed, for free, with food from the various growers and communities taking part. The donated food was turned into a gorgeous curry by volunteers (who did the work at the Quay Coop), all coordinated by Keelin Tobin and her team.
Busy bees

Lots of stalls around the main green area in the park where the lively music was provided by the band of the First Brigade. And that theme of food and health was underlined by Our Garden at St Mary’s where the motto is “Growing together for positive mental health”. Here, they are using Eco Therapy to see beyond Mental Health illness, “allowing people to become active in their own journey”. The Sli Eile organic farm in Churchtown (North Cork) uses similar methods and they also had a Harvest event on the Saturday.

Back to Fitzgerald’s Park where the Bee stall was a big draw and the kids were also kept active with pumpkin throwing, face-painting, even tug-of-war. And the apple juicer stall was also very popular. 

One of the most colourful stalls was that of Martha Cashman’s More Clay Less Plastic. She makes lovely bird feeders; they are reasonably priced (I bought a couple) and they (and the birds that visit for food) are a delightful addition to any garden or outdoor area.

Aside from the main display area, there were some colourful creations over by the pond, edible boat gardens created by the amazing crew at Knocknaheeney Hollyhill community garden, another angle to Cork Food Harvest Festival, not your regular food festival but a celebration by and of all those who commit to a sustainable and healthy food system. And the great news, according to Cork Healthy City over on Twitter, is that this community is growing every year. Excuse the pun!

See more on the Cork Food Policy Council here.