Greens launch allotment and community garden plan in Bloom’s ‘Obama Garden’

Food Minister Trevor Sargent boosts farmers’ markets and is determined to get more people growing

  • Allotments officer for local authorities
  • Development plans to include growing ground
  • Easier access to farmers’ markets

Food Minister Trevor Sargent today said he was determined to encourage more Irish people to grow their own food. At the same time Minister Sargent also launched a plan to boost confidence in Farmers’ Markets. Minister Sargent, was speaking as he launched two key initiatives today [Friday May 29] at the new Obama Garden, – a model of Michelle Obama’s White House organic garden – in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Minister Sargent said: “The phenomenal demand for allotments and the unprecedented sales of vegetable seeds indicate that there is effectively a food revolution taking place in the country. The spin-off benefits include healthier communities and greater resilience in the face of the recession and shortage of oil and food internationally. “I have been working closely with Green Party Leader and Environment Minister John Gormley to increase the numbers of people growing food at home and on allotments. Moves include an allotment officer for local authorities, targeted development plans to provide land for growing food in the community, easier access and guidelines for farmers’ markets and books and guides on how to grow your own food.”

Farmers’ markets

Minster Sargent also launched a ‘Best Practice for Farmers’ Markets’. New guidelines will include a green flag system to encourage higher standards at markets. The voluntary guidelines will focus on what a Farmers’ Market should be. If produce is to be identified as local, it must be grown either in the county of the market or in an adjoining county. To signify the local character of the market, at least 50% of the produce on sale must qualify as being of local origin. With prepared food such as jam or a cake, at least one of the ingredients should be local. The farmers’ market best practice flag will offer the public a national accreditation standard for their local Farmers’ Market. Stallholders will benefit from greater confidence, local pride and higher profile.

Minister Sargent said there are over 140 farmers’ markets in Ireland and he has been working closely with local authorities to increase this number. He welcomed a recent initiative by Green Party Bye-Election candidate in Dublin South Elizabeth Davidson who negotiated free stalls for community garden and allotment holders to sell their produce at local markets.

Minister Sargent said the Party’s ‘Get Ireland Growing’ campaign generated huge interest, with Green Party candidates getting a very positive reaction on the doors. “Many people remember their parents growing food in the garden, while others remember ‘plots’ or allotments in the community. There are many benefits to having allotments on public ground. Anti-social behaviour is often reduced where tended allotments are put in on waste ground. In this time of recession, people are trying to save money and may have more time to devote to community work, gardening and food growing.”

Minister Sargent today jointly launched the Whitehouse Garden in the Phoenix Park with the US Charge d’Affaires Mr. Robert J. Faucher at the Bloom Festival in the Phoenix Park. The garden is modeled on the First Lady Michelle Obama’s organic garden in the Whitehouse.

The Green Party’s plan includes:

  • An Allotments Officer for local authorities. Minister Sargent said: “For the bigger local authorities, such as the City Councils, we will look to provide an allotments officer who will work to ensure the provision of adequate land resources for allotments and community gardens. This position would compare to the role of a heritage officer or a housing officer and could operate on a part-time basis.”
  • Development plans to include growing ground. Minister Sargent said: “In the past, local authority development plans have often overlooked the necessary green space to provide for good growing ground. I am working with Green Party Leader and Environment Minister John Gormley to ensure local authorities take into consideration and provide for green space to allow communities come together and grow their own food. I am hopeful that State bodies such as Teagasc, could advise local authorities on where to place plots and gardens.