It’s day one at the Eco Village and as we all settle into the hostel lounge to regroup, a peppy straight haired woman steps into the building. She’s holding a bucket full of different kinds of greens. Johanna, the woman who would be cooking for us during our stay, introduced herself and explained how she had just collected all the vegetables needed to feed the twenty of us from the eco village community supported garden. At the eco village the people eat what the season brings. Because they grow their own food they are able to manage the amount of food that they share. In a conversation with Pa, the owner of the eco village’s only hostel, I learned that the farm is operated on a community supported agricultural basis where participants aim to improve the quality and quantity of food available locally while reducing the environmental impact of producing the food. The village’s farm is spread across 40 acres with a little over 50 households participating. For €60 a month participants receive a weekly basket of vegetables, fruit, eggs or any type of farm produce managed by two farmers. All participants are committed to providing support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
There are so many benefits to “growing local.” For one, all the different varieties of food promote biodiversity. Biodiversity boosts the environment’s productivity and in turn produces natural sustainability. Growing local also reduces food miles—the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer is essentially nothing. This reduces the environmental impact of food on things like global warming. Food waste left over from meals is then added to compost which is then used back in the farms to enrich the soil. Not only does compost enrich the soil but it also helps reduce toxic emissions from things like landfills and lowers the community’s carbon footprint.
It’s an odd thing to think how, in 1845, Ireland experienced a devastating famine. At that time most Irish families depended on one food source—the potato. When the potato crop failed because of a fungus, millions of people died. That famine was 100% preventable and what we know now is that biodiversity is critically important. It is clear that community farms benefit both the environment and community immensely. Later on that night, as our bellies were playing a symphony of their own through growls, we were blessed with a giant plate of food. Fresh salad, juicy plate of veggies and chicken curry all with rice. And to think that it all came from the community garden!