Aongus (Chóil Mhaidhc) Ó Coisdealbha
In 2018 I made a four part TG4 series called 'Síolscéalta', following the growing year at 'An Garraí Glas, an organic vegetable farm. You get to know someone very well when you spend that much time with them, and Aonghus is a charismatic young man with a big vision. His life’s work is to grow food organically and on a small scale, without chemicals or machinery, for the people of Conamara and surrounding areas. Having spent years abroad working on organic farms in different countries, and studying their methods and permaculture, Aonghus decided it was time to return to his birthplace and create a smallholding there, using all he’d learned alongside the older, traditional methods he grew up with.
The acres of land he returned to had not been tended since the nineties, and so he set about his task with determination and a sense of humour. The result is An Garraí Glas, a smallholding run by Aonghus and worked by him along with a team of Wwwoofers and local volunteers. They have created a sanctuary for lovers of local, organic food, and they cater to several local farmers’ markets, grocery shops, and supermarkets. The garden is built using a traditional ridge bed system, combining new growing techniques.
Most of the older people in the area once grew their own vegetables; potatoes carrots, cabbage and onions were staples in the garden. They still have the knowledge of how to grow food, but it isn't being passed on or practiced by the next generation. Aonghus wants to create a model for sustainable local produce as both a reaction, and an alternative to the down sides of globalisation; increasing corporatisation of our food sources, reliance on fossil fuels, and our disconnection from nature. He is finding solutions by empowering himself and he wants to empower others to provide food security for themselves, and for the surrounding community.
He has also created something of a cultural hub at An Garraí Glas - staging concerts and events to show appreciation to the community that support the garden. The winding ridge garden can be seen from the road, and it has brought back life, energy and amazing produce back to the area.
Nominator: Paula Kehoe, Director, Saoi Media