Carnaun School first to go organic – August 2001

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Galway School is the first to go organic

Carnaun National School near Athenry in County Galway has become the first school in the country to be awarded an Organic Licence. Having turned their school grounds into an environmentally friendly nature trail, Principal Finbarr O’Regan decided that the small primary school should go for official recognition of their pupils’ work and applied to IOFGA for a licence.

As well as numerous habitats, a wildlife pond and many specious of native trees, the school has a thriving vegetable garden. Using leaf mulch from their several compost heaps and horse manure from a local farmer, the garden was planted with cabbage, peas, onions, carrots, potatoes and herbs.

Most of the plants were raised in the school cold-frame while others came from a local organic grower. ‘Its important that the children learn best practice from an early age’ says Finbarr. ‘Especially when they are living in what is a predominately agricultural area. Its time that the organic message was taught in all schools’. The pupils seem to agree with their teacher. ‘We can get the symbol so that we can say we are organic and that it is a better way of gardening’ says Marion Fahy. ‘Its better for the butterflies too.

Cattle and sheep farming are the main types of agricultural enterprises in the Athenry Area. While there is one organic farmer and one organic horticultural unit, it’s not an area where the local farmers seem particularly interested. The local railway station is frequently piled high with fertiliser pallets so many children see a different type of farming when they go home.

Nevertheless, according to Finbarr, many local farmers are joining Reps and therefore they are getting closer to organic all the time. ’They’re reducing their stocking rate and their fertiliser usage’ he says. ‘And because of what the pupils are doing here at the school, at least their parents are aware of the word organic’.

Traditionally the school’s work on the environment is well known in the country. Many visitors come to see the school grounds which includes an impressive environmentally friendly nature trail. Recently, for the fourth year in a row the school was awarded an ESB award for the best schoolwork on the environment in County Galway.

Looking to the future, Finbarr says that some of his pupils will take over the family farm and by then, they will in all likelihood, be running the farm organically. ‘With the growth of Galway city it won’t be long before its suburbs reach out as far as Athenry,’ he says. ‘When that happens, there will be a big demand for organic produce and enormous potential for market gardening in the area.

Pointing to a rusty horse plough which stands as an ornament in the school grounds, Finbarr said, ‘It’s only about thirty years since that plough was used. So it’s not long ago since every farmer in the area was organic’.

Many of the pupils of the small Co. Galway school are now wondering how long will the school be left being the only organic one in Ireland. One pupil, Martin Browne says ‘I think other schools will copy us now.

Cait Curran, Journalist, Writer, Editer ‘Organic Matters’ and Organic Vegetable Grower grows a wide range of organic fruit and vegetables. Her produce is available at the market,on Saturdays in Galway, Contact her at – 091-844973 email – caitcurran@gmail.com

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About this record

Written by Cáit Curran

Published here 19 Feb 2024 and originally published August 2001

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