The Mandala of Community Gardens (see previous post on CorkSimon gardens) project in Cork city coincided with the renovation of the arts centre in Mayfield. A grant was provided by a private donor to develop the garden in to a space for the community as part of the renovations. Local people were asked to participate in the design of the garden and workshops were held to bring peoples’ ideas together. Eimer and Claire, two external members of the Mandala project, brought groups and volunteers to Mayfield to work on the garden including a group from the permaculture course in Kinsale and gradually the garden took shape.
Individual projects were also developed around the garden such as a willow sculpture class and a cob oven building workshop.
Mayfiled runs an exchange program between young local artists and young artists from Latin America; the cob oven was built during their smmer arts and global justice project this year. Some of the participants in the youth exchange from Nicaragua and Colombia took part in the cob oven building sessions. And since then cob oven pizza parties have been held at the arts centre using food grown in the garden for the pizzas and encouraging young people to try new types of food.
There are now FETAC level 3 horticulture courses held in the garden every year. The courses have been over subscribed and another FETAC level 4 course in organic food growing has been developed with a strong element of food preparation.
The target groups for the courses depend largely on the funding sources available. There is currently a focus on working with people with special needs in the garden. The guys at the arts centre work with the Cope Disability Foundation and the Brothers of Charity services at the Aisling Day Service and some of their members have participated in the courses. Martin, one of the guys from the course, showed me around the garden on Thursday and pointed out the different
places that he had been working and the different plants and flowers (marigolds, lettuces) that he particularly liked. One of the staff members in the centre remarked that some of the things the workshop participants enjoy particularly are the independence they have in the project, their involvement in planning and decision making and, of course, seeing the results of their hard work! Some of the students live in full-time residential accommodation in Bandon and there are reports that some of them have taken what they’ve learned in Mayfield back with them and begun growing some food at home.
There is also a local boys school involved in a garden project at the centre and there are continuing efforts to bring local people in to the garden. Apparently there are quite a few other food growing courses in the area, so there is stiff competition. Good news for Mayfield!