The Urban Farmer – a case for better use of derelict land and green sites

Urban farming. Stephen O'Shea Independent Candidate Dundrum Locl Elections

Urban farming. Stephen O'Shea Independent Candidate Dundrum Locl Elections

On last night’s canvas I came across an alternative front garden in my Churchtown constituency.  This was no cottage garden festooned with herbaceous borders and Spring colours or a Celtic Tiger landscaped urban cool car port.  It was something entirely different – a display in precision and elegance with beautifully dug trenches and carefully planted potato crops!  Yes, I did do a double-take.  It seems our urban farmer is the talk of the street.  But, she is doing no more than following a world-wide phenomenon.

 Urban farming Stepphen O'Shea 004

The Irish Times headline on April 13th 2009 read  “Public interest in growing own vegetables surges”. “Requests from members of the public for information on how to grow their own vegetables to help beat the recession has led Teagasc to publish a practical guide on the subject.”  “A Guide to Vegetable Growing is a response to the huge rise in the number of queries received by the agriculture and food development authority”. Stephen Alexander, a Teagasc vegetable specialist at Kinsealy, Co Dublin, who has written the booklet, said both the authority and the Department of Agriculture had noticed a “major upsurge” in calls for information”.  Click here to down load Teagasc’s guide to vegetable growing.
“Most of these calls were not from farmers but from the general public, even though there were some calls received from farmers as well”.
“Up until about 20 years ago most farmers had a vegetable patch at their homes but that now has also changed and few farmers grow their own vegetables.”

The US First Lady Michelle Obama is going to turn part of the South Lawn into an organic vegetable garden to provide food for first family in the White House.  Domestic horticulture is back!  In 2009, 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs, according to a recent report from the National Gardening Association (NGA). That’s up 19 percent — from 36 million — in 2008 and represents a spend of some $2 billion on growing vegetables.

Britons spent around £62 million on seeds in 2007, £46 million of which was spent on seeds or edible plants, according to the Horticultural Trades Association.

Thompson Morgan and Suttons Seeds – major British seed suppliers — have noticed a rising trend in the past five years and say they have seen a jump towards vegetables from flower seed sales.  I’m afraid I don’t have the Irish figures to hand. Perhaps my Green party colleagues might care to leave a comment.

 One of my key election issues (see My Priorities (Detail)) is extending the Council’s allotment scheme and taking more green spaces in charge.

Did you know that under the Allotments Act 1926, your Council has an obligation to provide allotments?

The Council has an allotment scheme in Goatstown, presently rezoned for a new road. The Council needs to be encouraged to expand the current limited scheme and to take advantage of the downturn in the property book.  By freeing up derelict land, previously earmarked for development, the Council can provide more allotments and other community facilities.  We have derelict land and green spaces all over our community – at best they are an eyesore – at worst they attract vermin and unwanted late night partying!

Nobody wants derelict land left idle until the next property boom. 

Check out my photo gallery for some snap shots of derelict land, boarded up houses, and wasted green spaces:


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