The Liberties area in Dublin 8 is riddled with vacant plots of land left behind after dangerous buildings we’re pulled down or developers baled out of building projects. But, behind one of the many hoardings that cover the derelict sites on Thomas Street lies a lush city farm thriving amongst the old buildings on one of Dublin’s oldest streets.
We visited the Our Farm project on a sunny late September day and met Rian Coulter (26) the former vice-president of NCAD next door and Tony Lowth (70) a Landscape Gardener, Social Activist and Farmer-in-Chief to find out more about the project.
Meath Street in The Liberties
The Locals (TL): How did Our Farm project come about?
Rian Coulter (RC): The hidden site from 113 Thomas Street to Oliver Bond Street was discovered by my predecessor in the Students’ Union at NCAD, Fabian Strunden, who stumbled on the site by chance whilst was running a workshop on art, design & horticulture in 2012.
We both wanted to provide an ecological outlet for both art & design students and the wider neighbourhood. The college we’re reluctant to get on board until we got the support from Tony Lowth in 2014.
Tony immediately saw the potential in developing the brown field site and building on connections that he had made from previous community gardens in the area.
It took nearly two years but now the bulk of the site has been cleared, the farm is thriving and we are able to cater for the inclusion, recovery and rehabilitation programes that we run with various charities in Dublin City.
Our Farm as viewed from the massive mound of compost!
TL: You mention that you want to be part of the ‘wider neighbourhood’. How will the project contribute to the area?
RC: Our Farm is a social enterprise project that aims to provide educational, recreational and horticultural opportunities for students, residents and community groups in the area.
Throughout the year we host groups such as drug and alcohol recovery programmes, youth offenders and early school leavers with accessible, meaningful and fun apprenticeships, classes and potential job opportunities.
Overall, we’ve had a really positive engagement from local businesses, residents and community groups who have been supportive in every way. Of course there's frustrating anti-social behaviour that sets you back the odd time, but I think we've managed to build up a respectful relationship with many of the people around us.
Rian and Tony
TL: What are the greatest challenges you face with a project like this?
RC: The Our Farm project is the biggest food growing farm in Dublin City Centre and has been built, thus far, for free using waste materials, land, wood and compost. Volunteers are vital to the success of the farm and both getting and keeping people involved on a regular basis is a big challenge.
Tony tending to plots amongst the shells of old buildings.
TL: What are your best growers?
RC: Kale, Kale, Kale! And potatoes.
Rian adding to the compost pile, NCAD over the wall in the background
TL: What is the plan for the future of Our Farm?
RC: We want to stay here for as long as possible, hosting events and classes, developing a model that we can use to expand elsewhere. We're in the process of setting up a company with charitable status and we will hopefully begin selling ready to go raised-bed allotments for home garden farms very soon.
Tony telling us how it is
Our Farm needs volunteers to help lift, dig, plant and harvest, on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10am-12pm.
In return, volunteers will get training and experiences and as much fresh veg as their arms can carry!
The next Our Farm event is in conjunction with The Fumbally Stables on 11th October where Rian and Fabian will be hosting a tour of the farm. Info here.