As proud sponsors, we've been following the progress of St Canice's rooftop garden with keen interest, and eagerly awaiting an update on phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 called for the construction of a pergola to provide some much-needed shade for both the garden's plants and the gardeners themselves (as well as other visitors to the garden). We can happily report that the pergola is now finished! Construction of the metal framework was completed in mid-April, with the mesh cover topping off the structure on 3 May.
With the cooling canopy now in place, Rob Caslick, his crew of volunteers, and those who benefit from the garden can hold the events here that they couldn't previously. "Before this, we had to have a lot of our workshops downstairs, because there's full sunlight in the middle of the day, and it just gets too hot," says Caslick. "But now we'll have a big table and chairs here, and it'll mean we can host workshops and other events up here. Having a big pergola means we'll be able to have both the practical and the theory in the same spot. It's awesome."
And no grass grows under this group. The morning after the pergola's completion, they held a session of the new GROW! horticultural-therapy program, a joint venture between St Canice and St Vincent's Hospital Mental Health. "Those with mental-health concerns come and work in the garden," says Caslick. "It's all about social inclusion – bringing people out of their homes and into the garden and relating stories about life to gardening, essentially." The program runs for eight weeks.
Meanwhile, St Canice and Caslick's Inside Out Organic Soup Kitchen (IOOSK) is still working closely with refugees in the garden, too.
The parish volunteers hold social events here as well. "Once a month, we invite the community up here to have a working bee and have dinner together afterwards," says Caslick. "Now we'll have a long table here to be able to break bread together – that's the whole point."
And it's catching on. "A number of people have contacted us about the garden to ask us how we did it and how they can do it," Caslick says. "So we've provided assistance to several other places looking to do something similar."
Much like the rooftop garden, the efforts of the IOOSK are growing and thriving, too. As much as possible, the food grown in the garden – mostly herbs and teas – goes into the soup kitchen and related events, says Caslick. However, because of the smallness of the St Canice rooftop space, the garden has always been more about meaningful activity and community than about supply. So the biggest recent news for IOOSK is its new collaboration with Cana Communities, an organisation out west that has its own farm and grows its own produce. "We're looking at purchasing their produce to use in the kitchen downstairs," says Caslick. "Our plan is to work with Cana Communities to use only their land. It's kind of a nifty story around sustainability. It's only one location, one plot, where we can get all of our food. So, for instance, the story will be, 'We're not having potatoes this week, because potatoes aren't in season. This is what we've got. This is the bounty of our land. This is what we're serving tonight, and this is why we're serving it.' It's not only educational, but also a kind of respect for eating what's fresh now. That's our big idea for the moment, and we're just getting it up and running."
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