THE success of Clare County Council’s allotment scheme in Shannon has fostered great community spirit among gardening enthusiasts and the council is now being urged to replicate the feel-good factor in other parts of the county.
The provision of about 44 public plots at the rear of Illaunmanagh Cemetery has taken on something of a cosmopolitan flavour as green-fingered people from China, South Africa and Spain mingle with locals who thoroughly enjoy watching a wide variety of fruit and vegetables blossom.
Now in its fourth year, the 150m2 plots are available for rent from the council for an annual fee of €45.
Stephen Danaher, who lives in Fearnóg across from Shannon Town Centre, believes the social interaction between growers is one of the project’s positive spin-offs.
“There is a great social side to growing your own food. There is a great mix of people in Shannon, including people who are willing to share their experience and give advice. There is a nice mixture of people from different countries and locals.
“Growth has been very slow this year. There has been an increase in the number of slug attacks on potatoes because of all the heavy rain. I suppose it is a matter of persevering.
“Last year was much better, as it was easier to grow organic food. Having said that, every year brings its own particular problems, which have to be overcome.
“Organic vegetables and much fresher and tastier. There is great satisfaction gained from knowing there are no chemicals used in growing your own food, which is safe to eat. It can be hard to get children to eat vegetables but when they see their own vegetables growing and take an interest in it, it makes it easier.
“There is no need to water plants or vegetables this year with all the rain. The Shannon allotment has been a fabulous success. Ninety-five percent of the people who first took out a plot are still here. It has improved every year and there is a good mix of expertise.
“I wouldn’t have the space to grow my own vegetables. A lot of modern houses don’t have a big back garden,” he explained.
Having lived in Shannon for the last 30 years, Stephen learned to grow vegetables from his father, James, who hails from Glin in West Limerick and is delighted to pass on this art to his three sons, Eoghan (23), James (16) and Darragh (14), who help him out in the allotment.
Stephen tries to spend a day a week working on his own individual plot, tending his potatoes, peas, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, which he has grown in the past.
He believes the council should try and expand this into new areas, as it fosters great community spirit.
Councillor Gerry Flynn, who performed the official opening of the allotment with former Mayor of Clare, Madeleine Taylor-Quinn, in April 2009, said the initiative has been a great success and was a very welcome development for the locality.
Last year, former Mayor of Clare Pat Hayes officially opened a new compost demonstration site at the allotments in Shannon and presented master composter volunteers with their graduation certificates.
The compost demonstration site is open to the public to visit and includes turning units, leaf mould and composting bins. This site has been supported by Clare County Council and the Stop Food Waste Initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency.