An t-ionad Glas

An t-ionad glas was opened in 1992, in Dromcollogher, and the only certified organic horticulture course in Ireland began the same year. Numbers joining the course have been increasing, with sixteen people studying presently, reflecting the growing interest in organic living and growing food without chemicals. There is a wide spectrum of people on the course, from farmers wishing to convert to organic farming to people who wish to set up their own growing patch, either for commercial purposes or for self-sufficiency.

An t-ionad has one acre next to the Heritage Centre in the village. Here the vegetables are grown in rotation beds and also in a polytunnel. Fruit and herbs are also grown here, and there is a tree nursery growing broadleaf native species. The land is looked after by the students and Fás workers.

The centre also has a small garden next to the local community college. This also has a polytunnel where the students are taught about organic growing. The school has been very supportive to the course. There are plans to develop a pond ecosystem and a permanent tree nursery here. Close by is a fruit garden with apple trees and room for development.

The course is based on organic and co-operative principles. There are weekly meetings where ideas are put forward and problems dealt with.

Organic Horticulture is essentially a system of farming where you work with nature rather than attempting to harness and control her. It does not use chemicals, in any form. Rotations and compost making are strong aspects of this system. Nature, insects and birds are encouraged in the garden as their value is recognised. Wild flowers and 'weeds' are not seen as enemies, rather they are part of the whole system. Green manures are also used, along with animal manures, leaf mulch and worm castes.

The organic philosophy is essentially holistic, and recognises that nature can look after herself. It balances our existence with all other life forms and does not try to conquer or exploit the Earth. Soil is seen as the home of plants, rather than simply being a support for them.

The subjects on the course are Organic production, soil and plant science, vegetable production, fruit production, business and co-operative studies, metalwork and machinery maintenance, communications and work placement. We are also introduced to Earth education, biodynamics and permaculture. On field trips we visit areas and centres where organic principles are used.

The course is 1-2 years long and is supported by the VEC. People who have been unemployed for six months or more can avail of V.T.O.S. There are many night classes in the community college.

The organic collective have been involved in a variety of campaigns, with some people visiting the Glen of the Downs. We have also planted hundreds of acorns from the Glen woods. We have become involved in promoting native broadleaf trees, and we are presently encouraging Coillte to change its policy of planting sitka spruce all over the country.

On a local level we have put on shows for the children of the area, to create awareness of the course and what we have been doing there. We have also contributed articles to local press relating to environment and the course.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the centre, or if you would like to join in September contact:

Jim McNamara or Sinead Neilan at:
An t-Ionad Glas, Dromcollcoille, Co. Luimneach. (063-83042/83121)

If you would just like to come for a visit and to look around - Ta fáilte romhaibh!

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