Sarah O’Mahony delves into the gardening pursuits of proud Corkonians including Cork Rooftop Farm and UCC Community Garden.
Cork pride is nothing new to us. It often translates into to great initiatives being run which foster the city’s sense of community: the Save Cork City campaign which opposes flood defences being built along the Lee, the Quay Co Op which started off in 1982 as a safe space for the gay community and the Cork Migrant Centre which is an education and integration hub for many in the city and beyond. Gardening is another string to our bow with the development of Cork Rooftop Farm and the ever positive vibes of the UCC Community Garden.
Cork Rooftop Farm is making waves. It was started in 2019 by Brian McCarthy and Thay Carlos on the rooftop of Brian’s father’s fresh flowers business with a few raised beds. The initial lockdown gardening project has now grown into a business model with a market farm outside the city with free range chickens, a shop selling its produce and more on Cornmarket Street and plans to open a restaurant, run tours and educational programmes. Their shop is located next to the bright yellow Plugd, a resilient record store which has taken many different forms and locations since it began in 2003 led by Jimmy Horgan. Brian and Thay are in good company. Their business is definitely alternative farming at its best. Not only is their market farm a ‘no dig farm’, where weeds are handpicked and compost is spread directly on top of crops to avoid soil disruption, they stock exotic mushrooms grown in Offaly and are interested in Korean natural farming which engages with the growth of microorganisms to improve soil quality. Along with this environmental impact is clearly central to their business model. No dig farming uses less water, reduces erosion and maintains carbon levels. Their shop also has a zero waste food section where you can bring your own containers or buy glass ones in store to carry your purchase of quinoa or chocolate chips. At the moment they are growing winter crops such as kale and chard in their raised beds on the city rooftop and working to expand the business. I am very excited to see how they grow into the future (no pun intended) and see their work as a positive force in our city.
The UCC Community Garden is a similar force of good described as a ‘self sufficient have for anyone who loves to spend their spare time outdoors’ by Garden Officer Mollie O’Rourke. Mollie filled me in on the current details of the space. To keep up to date on their events follow @uccenvirosoc on Instagram.
‘The garden is located behind the office buildings on Carrigside, College Road. It is a small patch of land which UCC students and staff alike have transformed in recent years into a community space used for growing fruit, vegetables, herbs and much more! The garden is complete with two polytunnels and composting bins. So far this semester it has hosted composting workshops and has also facilitated the planting of spring bulbs along college road. Future plans include growing over one hundred chestnut and oak saplings which will then be donated to UCC and Cork City Council to improve on the population of native trees. The society will also be growing many more vegetables and pollinator friendly plants in our garden, with many opportunities for volunteers to take home cuttings for their own gardens. We are always looking for new volunteers and welcome all levels of experience. Can’t wait to see some new faces there soon!’
There is something uplifting about caring for something outside of yourself. Whether you pop into Cork Rooftop Garden’s shop on the Coal Quay for a small cactus and some fancy mushrooms for your bolognese or get stuck into a project in one of the polytunnels off College Road there’s something for everyone.