GROW Place Ireland | Citizen Sensing in Community Gardens

oliver moore
GROW Observatory Stories
4 min readMay 14, 2018


Joanne Butler of OURganic gardens

By Davie Philip (Community Catalyst with GROW Observatory)

“A garden is a solution that leads to other solutions. It is part of the limitless pattern of good health and good sense.” Wendell Berry

What are Community Gardens?

The popularity of community gardens — areas of land collectively managed by a group of people — has grown rapidly in recent years. These locations are fertile grounds for much more than just food production.

Working in a garden with others has positive effects on our wellbeing and are powerful places for building social ties, creating local connections and engaging with people at risk of exclusion. As well as wonderful places to grow vegetables, a community garden is an environment for growing stronger relationships.

Community gardens are great settings for learning about growing, composting, bee keeping, seed saving and other skills in self-relience, and even provide an outlet to better develop our teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills. They can also nurture young people’s development, providing many benefits including improved attitudes toward healthy food and an increased awareness of nature.

Importantly and interestingly from a GROW Observatory perspective, Community Gardens could be great places to enable people to act as citizen scientists, to observe soil, collect data and test new sustainable growing practices.

Community Gardens in Ireland and the GROW Observatory

Community Gardens Ireland or CG Ireland for short, is a support network, to promote the work of new and existing community gardens throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland. Their aim is to facilitate food growing while empowering local people, of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, to strengthen their communities.

CG Ireland have been selected as GROW Observatory ‘Community Champions’, and will be joining similar organisations from Portugal, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Greece, Spain and Scotland to develop GROW Places, regional focus areas for citizen science where people will collect data that can help validate climate prediction models from satellites.

On the 27th of May 2018 CG Ireland will be hosting ‘Our Soil’, an event that acts as their annual gathering and the launch of GROW Places. (Scroll down to see this exciting event on the Convergence festival page).

All the community gardens, farms and growing places that will be invited to join the Irish GROW Places will help to increase people’s knowledge of soil. Using affordable sensors, they will collect data that can help validate climate prediction models from satellites. The first Irish GROW Place will be in the north west of Ireland — in county Donegal — with another in the South East to follow.

Joanne Butler from the Community-led Social Enterprise OURganic Gardens is from the Donegal GROW place:

Joanne Butler (right) with Tansey Watson (left) at the Electric Picnic Music Festival

“Well first things first When I signed up on the first GROW Course ‘From Soil To Sky’ I noticed where I am growing is one of the most north westerly locations in Europe and the idea that we could take part in such a fantastic opportunity was very exciting. I have been part of community gardens Ireland for five years now and I love the benefits that networking, communicating and sharing knowledge has for all, which is exactly what the GROW project is all about. And now to be part of the GROW places in Donegal — working with community gardens, helping develop our projects some more is wonderful — I’m really over the moon!

When it comes to the importance of our Soil, as a grower I totally understand why we need to look after the soil below our feet and to explore new ways to protect it in this ever changing climate.

Bringing people together as citizen scientists will help us not only collaborate together and share knowledge on a much wider basis, but help us take a new look at the world and see how we can all play a part in making a difference!”

To reverse further degradation of soils we urgently need increase participation in the stewardship of our land. With access to on-line courses and educational resources for participants, the GROW Place project supports the emergence of a movement of citizens sharing knowledge and data on soil. These ‘citizen scientists’ will help with forecasting and preparing for climate events, such as heat waves and floods, by validating the detection of soil moisture from satellites as well as taking practical steps to preserve the soil for future generations.

Community Gardens Ireland travel to the Electric Picnic with Cultivate each year, where they co-create the GLobal Green area. Here’s a short video from 2015

More information on GROW Places can be found under the GROW Places tab on our Medium page.



oliver moore
GROW Observatory Stories

Food, farming, organics, environment: column @IrishExaminer; Communications; PhD sociology; UCC's Cntr for Co-op Studies; Views mine RT not support!