It took me a while but I finally got there. Myself and Susan were in West Clare last week visiting family and we took the opportunity to visit the inspirational Fergal Smith, a young former professional surfer from Mayo who is blazing a new trail as a community farmer. I first heard about Fergal over a year ago and have been following the progress through a series of impressive online videos that he and his brother produced.
The sun was shining when we arrived at the community garden near Lahinch that Fergal purchased and developed with friends as a local hub for food, learning and sharing.
Fergal gave us a tour of the various plants and crops, their new shed, and the impressive greenhouse that is mostly below ground level so as to prevent frost from killing the crops. He was buzzing telling us about the Tuesday volunteer days and the Friday evening 'cook-ups' where everyone is welcome, including kids who are looked after with special activities for them. There's even been a few evening concerts in the garden.
Fergal told us about the huge groundswell of support he has received for the project. There are the volunteers who give their time, the local farmers who lend their wisdom, the parish priest who has praised the garden from the pulpit. Folk singer Luka Bloom, who lives nearby, even wrote a song about the garden.
Fergal has recently purchased more land and it's clear that his vision holds no bounds. At a time when food and farming is becoming increasingly industrialised and many are leaving farming, his approach is encouraging. It holds out hope of maintaining that ancient connection to the land, and to the idea that food can be local, fresh and grown free from cancerous chemicals and the endless waste of plastic packaging.
We took a box of fresh vegetables home with us to Dublin and ate some of it just 4 hours after it was harvested from the soil. There was no comparison in the taste when compared to sprayed supermarket food that often travels thousands of miles before it gets to our dinner plates. This was food that was alive and you could feel the health kick in every bite.
Fergal is still only in his twenties but has travelled the world and tasted a type of success that others dream of. Now, with his wife and new baby he is focused on a different version of success. One that is about putting down deeper roots, roots that nurture mind, body and soul, while building community and protecting the planet. And thanks to the incredible waves of Ireland's west coast, he still gets to surf lots too.
Our visit was a short one but it uplifted and inspired us. In between all the negative news, it is great to know that there are people like Fergal who are out there who paving forging new paths, following their dreams, and inspiring others to live theirs.
More info: http://www.fergalsmith.com/
Here's to the dreamers
- and the doers!
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