Olga Lockley has for the past six years been researching the life of Mrs Nannie “Lambert” Power O’Donoghue who was born in 1843 the youngest child of Charles Lambert (born circa 1804), second son of Walter Peter and Ellen (Tubbs) of Castle Ellen, Athenry, and Jane Catherine Irwin, daughter Arthur Irwin of Oakfield, Co Sligo.

Mrs O’Donoghue was born, spent most of her life and died, in Dublin. During a long life she was firstly a noted horsewoman and later a poet, novelist, musician and journalist. She wrote for most of the well-known magazines and the Irish Times from 1880 virtually until her death in 1940, being probably best known for her early 20th century writings on social issues and animal welfare. Her Death Notice in the Irish Times stipulated: “No flowers, no mourning, help the poor instead”. Mrs O’Donoghue is buried at Bohermore Cemetery in Galway.

Olga feels, very strongly, that she is an Irishwoman who does not deserve to be forgotten by her country. Her biography is complete and she now has the more difficult task of finding a publisher.

Olga Lockley can be contacted at 41 Deborah Avenue, Fulwood, Preston PR2 9HU, England. Tel. 01772 713656.

Editor’s note: The book was published by Olga Lockey in 2001

Also see: Nannie Power O’Donoghue

Reeling in the years

“l defy anyone to sink a fork more than four inches into the ground anywhere in Carnaun” a local farmer told me in 1963 the year I was appointed principal teacher of Carnaun National School.

I was teaching in another local school for a year before that but was delighted to come back to my own school where I had been taught by my father and my aunt.

“Carnaun” means a “heap of stones” or “cairn” and gets its name form a little hill south of the school also called “Cloghar Goill” — the home of Goll Mac Mórna a leader of the Fianna, and later in medieval times called  “Carnaun Castle”.

Building from scratch

The little playground was limestone with a thin covering of soil through which rock showed in places, so much of the first year was spent “reclaiming” with pick and crowbar and sledge. The bigger pupils who lived near the school worked after school clearing away the stones and replacing it with soil from the “long acre”, the grassy margin along the roadside. I can still remember the smell of lime when I cracked the rocks with the sledge!

The garden in the corner of the playground was made up of a mixture of ashes from the school fire, turf mould from the reek of turf and some soil from the “long acre” for which we had to compete with the local farmers as they needed it for top dressing as much as we did.

We sowed whatever the children brought — potatoes (spuds) dipped in lime, cabbage, turnips and mangolds. Not many children nowadays would know what a mangold is but then it was grown as fodder for cattle and it was often left to the farmer’s children to bring out a cart full of turnips or mangolds to the sheep and cattle in the winter fields.

Whatever plants survived in the cold frame were taken home and planted by the children as we had no space for them in the schoolyard We did not have great success with our garden at first as “there was no need for it” as “everyone had one at home” and the Department of Education frowned on it. The wonderful Agriculture Science programme under the British regime had years before been scrapped in favour of the Irish language. In the 1980s there was again “no need for it” because “you can get all that stuff in the shops nowadays”. So now instead of getting a head of cabbage or lettuce with the dew sparkling on it in the morning you got a battered yellow one over the shop counter.

Official recognition

Later on, the Department of Education introduced healthy living as part of the curriculum; we got pyramid charts showing how much fruit and greens one should eat to be healthy and now we could enjoy “schoolwork” in the garden without too much interference from officialdom. We got a load of proper topsoil and a cart of “horse-dung” and suddenly the garden was “on” again and we grew a variety of vegetables. I still remember the ecstasy on a child’s face when eating a pea from a pod for the first time. The rest is history!

While the school was being renovated, we acquired two acres, from the farmer next door, giving us lots of space. We applied for organic status, did our conversion period and now the school and playground are officially “organic”.

While we still have to dig the holes for the trees with the crowbar and sledge it is now much easier to get loads of topsoil to fill them.

Every important school occasion for the past 15 years has been marked by the planting of a tree so each tree and shrub in the schoolyard has a story to tell. We planted a white beam tree for the “Good Friday Agreement” in the north of Ireland and there were times when we felt like cutting it down again when the various parties fell out with one another. We marked the millennium by planting an oak tree for everyone in the senior class and we can now boast of a line of 15 oak trees along our meadow path. Before the sixth class leave school, they normally plant a mountain ash.

Integrated curriculum

ln our school we have an “open door policy” and since we began to integrate information and communication technology into our curriculum, start a website and take part in sustainable development projects internationally, we have lots of visitors to our school and the children delight in taking them for a tour of our heritage train in the school grounds. I rarely went with them as it was their work and I would only be ‘gluing their pitch’.

Sadly, all good things come to an end; I retire from teaching this summer (the ‘powers that be’ in the Department of Education and Science think that I am too old to continue) and there will come a day when I will be taken for a tour of the school grounds for the last time.

They will show me with pride the work of many children who modelled a ‘Tír na nÓg’ out of rock with very little help from adults. ‘We do not have a caretaker we do most of the work ourselves’ they well tell me. We will walk past the vegetable garden and I will hear ‘It’s not so much about producing a big amount of vegetables; it’s about our organic way of life’. In the bird garden I will be shown the buddleia; ‘a shrub, from the Himalayas, that will grow anywhere, and where there were thousands of  butterflies, one day, last year’ and to the old front garden where they will tell me as if I were someone else, how ‘Finbarr pulled this red fuchsia bush, out of his garden at home, with a horse he was training, took it to school where it became a white fuchsia and later it was cut back and now it is not a fuchsia at all’. (The root stock had taken over)

They will tell me about the ‘Mandegoud Spring Garden’ called after a partner school in the Netherlands; the ‘Lambert Grove’ planted after the Lambert Symposium in 1998, the ‘Peace Tree’ (Called after the ‘Good Friday Agreement) where some of the children will shout “No” while others will shout “Yes”. They will tell me about the construction of the ‘Wildlife Pond’ during the “worst rainstorm ever” and ‘You should hear the racket the frogs make when they are spawning’ and bring me through the wildflower meadow and talk about ‘beautiful wild flowers that are only weeds when they are in a farmer’s crop of oats’ and we will sit, a while, in the meadow to listen to birdsong, the lowing of the neighbours’ cattle or just the silence of the countryside.

We will go along the ‘fox tracks’ to the meadow path beside the line of oak trees to the ‘Norman Keep’ where ‘Finbarr nearly got the sack, years ago because he had his class outside, when the Department Inspector arrived’. They will tell stories of flowers and trees and birds and bees, of horses and ponies and the ‘old school pony’ and how the families took turns bring him home at weekends’ and ‘when they had guinea pigs’ and ‘we were thinking of having chickens but who would mind them at weekends?’ They will tell about all the friends who ‘helped us’ with our work down through the years.

The children will integrate all subjects of the curriculum in their heritage walk, will show me how to take the temperature of their school-made solar panel or the compost bin, with the laptop. They will recite poetry and sing sogs and we will have a great time!

Legends recalled

Seated in the shelter at the wall mural depicting the history of the Carnaun area, I will hear tales of ‘Raiftearaí the Poet’ and Liam Joyce our very own Highwayman’. The Garden Mural’ will be their pride and joy and I will hear about all the ‘Environmental Awareness prizes won by the school through the years and ‘that’s us working in the organic garden’ and ‘that’s Finbarr with the camera’.

The Myths and Legends mural will bring the tales of Goll Mac Morna and his brother Conán Maol Mallachtach Mac Morna or Conan the Barbarian as he is known nowadays, Fionn and the Fianna and Oscar and Diarmad and Gráinne, and Queen Meadhbh and Alill and Lúgh and Lúgh’s mother Éitlin, the heroes of old, who gave their names to places in the locality and ‘how St. Patrick gave the people peace of mind by giving them one god to worship instead of many’.

And I will listen with wonder and awe to these very well educated because it is their school, it is their garden, it is their story; and I was lucky to be part of it!

And later when they have gone, I will sit on the ‘old teacher’s seat’ beside the garden and remember a time of bare feet and cows on the long acre, foddering turnips and mangolds, horse and donkey carts, backband and bellyband and britchin, stacks of hay and corn in haggards, cattle gadding from the warble fly, ploughing and harrowing, picking stones and digging spuds, milking cows and feeding calves, a time when, in spite of long hard working hours, people had time to stop and talk and when all journeys were nature walk sand when people were praised for their work with a ‘God Bless’ and a time that instead of blaming others, going to courts and tribunals and losses were ‘offered up’.

I will remember the fun we had in Carnaun School!

Editor’s note: This article was, the last of many, written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

To mark their last day in primary school Melissa Langan, Róisín Qualter, Michael Mullins and David Williams plant a horse chestnut with Garda Gerry Fahy from Athenry Gárda Station.

Cultivating lads and tending weeds

Once the children go on holidays school is a very different place. It is not really a school at all, just a building and grounds that need maintenance. We have past pupils who come to earn a few “bob” cleaning and painting and mending so there is something happening most days when I come to look after the garden which is looking very well indeed this year.

I find mowing the lawns and weeding a big change from the classroom and the fine weather this summer brought many little helpers to make the work more enjoyable.

Happy visitors

Summer is a time to sit in the sun and reminisce! We get lots of visitors during the school year and we show them around the organic garden and the school heritage trail. They are introduced to our organic way of life. We tell then about the Organic Symbol and the importance of having “Organic Status”. We show them why it complements our work for Sustainable Development and why the International Green Flag and our Alternative Energy projects are so important to us.

We explain about the laws of nature, food chains and ecosystems. We teach them all about pond life, the rotation of crops, about birds and insects, flowers and weeds and the balance needed in our work with nature in order that we can live a healthy life and leave behind a healthy world for generations to come.

And the visitors are delighted and so enthusiastic about our work and we get compliments – “It’s beautiful — the children are all wonderful – a lot of work has gone into this — we must start a garden at home” and they go forth resolving to change their lifestyles to eat only organic food in future and rid the world of pesticides and be better and more responsible citizens. We are delighted and we feel good also. We feel we have done our bit for society!

Barbed comments

But now and again we get “Well that was lovely! Aren’t you great! But then, you have such a big area around you school so it’s easy for you to have a school garden”! Or “the number of children in the school is small so it’s easy for you to do this”! So, we patiently explain that you can have a vegetable garden in buckets and window boxes; that we have designed a roof gardens for a huge schools in New York so the size of the area is not really important and that as we do not have a regular caretaker we do all the work ourselves so that small numbers are not an advantage at times.

And then very occasionally we get “You are wonderful but when do you get time for your schoolwork”. We are ready for this sharpshooter also. This question is loaded! It needs to be treated with the respect reserved for a deadly snake or road rage! You are in a “no win” situation here. Invariably they do not want an answer. Theirs is a statement of fact – it implies that our school is in some way inferior to the one they attended or the one their children now attend. It comes with a “chip on the shoulder” or a need to put a person down.

Developing the whole child

Our answer, while it is directed at the questioner, is more for the benefit of the general audience and it explains that all our projects are cross curricular, child-centred and integrated. We show them where language, maths, technology, science and the other primary school subjects are a part of the work at one time or another and that our standard in all aspects of our work is excellent. Work in the organic garden gives the children responsibility and ownership of their work. It helps them to think and work independently. An audience is important and being able to talk about their work with visitors gives them the confidence to go on to do better things in life. The primary school curriculum is not about what page in a text book a child is at. It is not about “cramming subjects” nor is it about the “points system”. It’s about the child’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and this is enabled in sustainable development and the organic way of life in Carnaun School.

Answering critics

Our answer also explains that all schools, even our own humble one, excel in different ways. We work with and have visited many schools throughout the world and we know that primary schools in the west of Ireland are second to none. This implies that they are extremely lucky that their children are attending one of the top schools in the world and that they themselves are privileged to be visiting one also. But with this minority you may as well be “talking to the wall” because some people do not and will never have the ability to recognise genius even when it is staring them in the face.

However, we are very lucky that this type of person is rare and that the majority of visitors are very supportive of our efforts!

Finbarr O’Regan, Principal Teacher

Editor’s note: This article was, one of many ,written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

Kieran Doherty, Niall Moran and Keith Williams 3rd Class with Conor Cooley 5th Class working in the school garden

We were very late sowing the vegetable garden this year! The fine warm weather in January and February turned our plot green with weeds. March was also bad and “Trí lá na Sean Bhó Riabhaigh” the three days of the old cow, carried on to the end of April and in May “Garbhín na gCuach the wet and windy weather of the cuckoo lasted nearly until the end of the month.

Then the birds, we fed all winter, decided the cabbage we planted was for them so we had to replant – this time for the slugs. Needless to say, “pest control” was the garden topic for the first fine week in June.

This year thanks to “Seed Savers” in Scarrif, Co. Clare we sowed some “endangered” potato species namely “Black Bog and Lumpers” and we hope that they will do well so that we can share them with our friends.

Congratulations to the teachers and children of Aughamore School near Knock in Co. Mayo. They are starting an organic garden in their new playground. We wish them many great years of environmentally friendly gardening. Well done, Mayo!

I attended a film on GM foods recently and was appalled at the account of a farmer in Canada, who failed in the highest courts in the land, to stop a huge multinational company from taking his crop because some of their patented seeds had accidentally blown onto his land. I hope we will not see the likes in Ireland where seed from a truck could contaminate ten small farms at once and drive the owners straight out of business. What I learned from the film was that GM foods really will not alleviate famine in the world.

What we need is fairer distribution of food and wealth!

Finbarr 0’Regan, Principal Teacher

Pest Control

If we spray with chemical pesticides, we kill the bad insects but we kill the good insects also. So, in our school garden, we use natural pest control.

We put up twigs and strings to frighten the birds. But not all birds are our enemies! Some control a lot of pests. A blue tit’s family eats about a thousand pests each day.

Lady birds eat greenfly and frogs eat slugs. This year we have lots of tadpoles and we see many frogs in the long grass.

Thrushes kill more snails than slug pellets. If you listen, in the morning, you may hear a thrush tapping the snail on the pathway outside your window. It seems cruel but that is the law of nature. Another way is to go out in the dark with a torch and pick up snails. Not my choice of pest control!

This year we are trying a new experiment – putting copper wire around plants to keep away the slugs. We will see how it works! However, we need to keep the area around the garden free from long grass and weeds as they love to hide there during the day.

Worms are not pests even though some people do not like them! They are our friends! We need them in the compost bin and in the soil!

These are our last days in Carnaun National School. We will be sorry to leave as we enjoyed our time here. Our class of Michael Mullins, Paul McCormack, David Williams Paul Tracey, Melissa Langan and I Róisín Qualter, would like to thank Finbarr, the other teachers, Anita, Mary and Máirín, our organic advisor and friend Cáit Curran and all others who helped and gave us an introduction to the Organic way of life! Slan go fóill!

Roisin Qualter, 6th Class

Editor’s note: This article was, one of many ,written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

Finbarr demonstrates seed sowing techiniques to pupils

Why should a school go “organic”?

If you have a school garden or thinking about a school garden or even thinking of a few plants in containers, you are probably teaching environmentally friendly methods. You are minding the birds and bees and butterflies, you are keeping a frog watch, in your pond, and are wondering about a bat project.

The children are aware that this generation is now the “Keepers of the Earth” and that it is our duty to hand it on in good condition to the next generation. You will also be teaching that it is important not to use artificial fertilisers, harmful chemicals or pesticides and maybe even the rotation of crops, and if you are, you are nearly organic before you know it! I said “nearly organic” because you need to be “certified organic”. If you are drowning “nearly saved” is not good enough! Just go that one step further and apply to a licencing body such as IOFGA. (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association)

The yearly inspection ensures that you will abide by the organic rules and you will be awarded the accreditation and symbol. This works on similar lines to the International Green Flag awarded to Green Schools by an Taisce. You get credit and an award “for doing the right thing”. In fact, the two awards go well together.

It is a pity that while the Green Flag is being promoted actively in schools by An Taisce and the various County Councils there is really no incentive to promote organic accreditation in schools. Hopefully in a few years both the Green Flag and an Organic Flag will fly proudly outside the schools of Ireland and the pupils and teachers within will know the value of good food and healthy living first hand.

What the students say

Recently the children of sixth class gave their views on organic food! “Organic is a better way of gardening” says Paul Tracey. “Food grown without artificial fertilizer and pesticides has to be much better for your health” was Roisin Qualter’s comment while Melissa Langan thought that “if she had to choose, she would definitely not go for food sprayed with harmful chemicals and pesticides”. David Williams stated that “there is no artificial flavouring or harmful additives in organic food”. “I usually do not like Brussels sprouts” says Michael Mullins but this year I had some from the school garden and they were delicious”. “Some people say that organic food is dearer than what you get in the supermarket” says Paul Mc. Cormack “but you are getting very good quality and it is cheaper in the long run”. “Lots of schools are interested in our organic garden” says Roisin, “and we get lots of email from schools in Ireland and from all over the world so we must be doing something good”.

Finbarr O’Regan is Principal teacher, Carnaun National School, Athenry, Co.Galway

The AIB Galway County Arts Award 2005

Editor’s note: This article was, one of many ,written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

A Tribute to David Storey

David Storey’s first visit to Carnaun was when he came to inspect the school for an organic licence! An inspection? Over the years we know all about school inspections and inspectors – Christian Doctrine inspectors, Dept od Education inspectors, dentists, doctors and nurses! We met some real ‘cookies’ in our time and often had cause for concern but our fears were allayed by our local organic adviser.

‘He is really nice! He was a teacher before this’ and sure enough he was. There were no trick questions. There were no trick questions, no embarrassment of pupil or teacher, no second-class citizens, no inspector knows best – David was not like that! He could have checked the Organic record book, ticked off all the little boxes about compost and fertilisers, bought in plants and produce sold, asked a few leading questions and be gone in five minutes. But no! This was also a social visit. He made friends immediately with the children. His gentle quiet unassuming voice and homourous manner captivated them and soon he was ‘inspecting’ not only the garden and the composting area but also the wildlife pond and the woodland grove, the wildflower meadow and the bird garden and all around the school nature trail and the five-minute inspection developed into a fun-filled hour or more.

He became their new found friend. He praised their work, he praised them individually, he praised their teacher and they were back in the classroom with him and their lunch hour forgotten. And he was being questioned. ‘How do you get rid of pests.  What would you do with … etc?’ and the looks of incredulity at some of the humorous answers. ‘Did you ever try steeping nettles? Did you ever think of ladybirds?

When instead of ‘glueing their pitch’’ with my presence I slipped out next door and put on the first of many kettles for him I knew that this group of interested gardeners were in safe hands and that they were with a ‘real’ teacher. He listened to what they had to say, quietly probing with simple questions and gave advice in the same gentle manner and you could see genuine regret when he eventually took his leave. This was our first official contact with the organic world and it was good!

Subsequent visits, whether for the annual inspection or for articles for the Organic Matters magazine or the Irish Examiner newspaper or when ‘he was just passing’, were the same friendly, enjoyable and social affairs. We looked forward to them.

David helped to put our school and garden on the Irish map and gave us the audience and reaction we needed to continue with confidence our ‘daft’ projects.

David was a good friend!

Editor’s note: This article was, one of many ,written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

Paul Tracey, Conor Cooley, Melissa Langan, Arron Butler, Mica V Mozo, Natasha Daly and Aoife Maguire with the first of this year’s pumpkins.

Despite an attack from caterpillars, the pupils of Carnaun National School had a plentiful harvest from their organic garden.

This harvest we had an excellent crop of potatoes, brassica and corn. The carrots and beetroot, even though we did not get to thin them, were also very good and while the pumpkins were plentiful, they were not really as good as other years. This was probably due to the late sowing and to the bad weather that followed. Hopefully we will have some to bring home for Halloween! We had a dilemma with the Brussels sprouts as they were attacked by the caterpillars! We let nature take its course as we have the saying “No butterflies, no bees, no bees no trees, no tree … well think about it!

When we got a chance, we cut the lawns for the last time this year and cutback some of the hedges and the cotoneaster which was obstructing the view of the cars going out of the car park.

Tulip time

On Friday the 30th September we planted some organic bulbs – crocus, snowdrops and tulips specially imported from the Netherlands for the spring garden. Every pupil in the school sowed at least one bulb. We will call this the Mandegoud Spring Garden as we are in communication with the Basisschool there this year.

Louis, Damien, Mikaela, Zoe and Niamh ‘saving’ hay in the schoolyard


When we came back, after the holidays, we had a few days feasting on the beautiful blackberries along the meadow path. We spent an afternoon at the cold frame. Lots of children brought in sprigs of their favourite shrub and now we have some cuttings of cotoneaster, buddleia, rose etc. in pots for next year. Also, in the cold frame are some oak and horse chestnut ready to plant out in November. We hope to plant an oak tree on the day our friends from Glengurt National School, Tournafulla, Co. Limerick come to visit us.

The Master’s voice

Over the years we have had many practical projects on the theme of sustainable development which is a way of life to us in Carnaun School. We started off in 1905 with the Carnaun School Heritage Trail for which we won many awards in the ESB Environmental Awareness competitions. We were awarded the European Green Flag in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and hope to be honoured with another one in 2006.

After three years in ‘conversion’ we got the Organic Symbol in 2003. Our Comenius Schools Partnership project ‘I eat, therefore I am’ 2001 to 2004was honoured in the European Parliament at the launch of Net@days Europe in 2001. We had great fun with ‘Butterflies’ in 2000, ‘Heating in the Compost Bin’ in 2002 and ‘Ultra Voilet Rays that with a solar panel’ in 2003. They were all cross curricular projects and great fun.

New Project

Our latest project ‘Can we use the sun’s energy to heat the school’ involved making a solar panel from an old radiator and recording the temperature hourly, during school hours, for the past month. The average rise in temperature throughout the month was 14.5 Centigrade so we came to the conclusion that with a solar panel we could, at least, heat the water in the toilets for free after the initial installation costs.

We had some visitors, to our heritage trail, in the past few weeks. They came from New Zealand and Canada and we are expecting a representative from Galway County Council to plan with us a project in ‘Alternative School Heating. We hope to apply for funding and ‘take it from there’!

Finbarr O’Regan, Principal Teacher, Carnaun School.

This article was one of many, written in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!


Melisa and Mico taking the temperature of the Compost Bin

Finbarr O’Regan, principal of Carnaun school in Galway, and his pupils, are on their summer holidays. He explains what happened when they gave their garden a holiday as well.

When the “Good Friday Peace Accord” was signed we planted a “Peace Tree” in Carnaun School to commemorate the event. The teenagers of Athenry had signed a letter of congratulations to all the people who signed the agreement and received letters of acknowledgement from them. These letters from Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair, Gerry Adams and all the other signatories are in the school’s archives.

The tree — a white beam – reminded us over the years of the conflict that was going on in the North of Ireland and there were times, especially after the London Bombing by the IRA or after some atrocious murder or robbery in the North, when we wondered would there come a time when we would have to cut this tree down. However, the 27th July, when the IRA statement of the end of their conflict was published, we were happy that the tree still flourishes in our school grounds.

Sarah O’Regan, Saoirse and Alicia looking after the garden during the holidays

Miniature jungle

After being away for a few weeks, we visited the school garden to find it very overgrown and a jungle of weeds. Wet warm weather had helped the growth of chickweed, fat hen and redshank, some of our most common weeds, so we had a few hours of intense weeding to get some semblance of order. The weed cover provided an ideal home for slugs and snails, so cabbage and lettuce suffered some damage. We removed some caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly before they got to eat too many leaves and the plants have now recovered and are growing well.

Some success

However, not all was bad as many of the vegetables had flourished in our absence. The Potatoes, Spinach, and Broad Beans were doing very well. The Carrots, Parsnips, Spring Onions and Beetroot had not done so well (probably because of the lateness of planting and the adverse weather conditions) and of course a lot of lettuce had gone to seed.

Our pumpkin bed is growing well and plants are beginning to trail off into the nearby grass.

Sweet meadow

The rest of the school grounds were looking good and a walk through the wildflower meadow to the wildlife pond was a sea of richly coloured wild flowers and shrubs. The scent of the flowers and the humming of the bees and the colour of the butterflies made all the hard work in the school grounds very worthwhile.

A few hours with the lawn mower filled up the compost bins quickly and home we went with lots of lovely spinach, onions and cabbage for our friends.

 This article was one of many written, in Carnaun School, Athenry, from 2006 onwards, for IOFGA’s Organic Matters Magazine, Editor Cáit Curran!

Monika Déja; study visit coordinator, Ziarno, Wilhelm Lackenbauer; Germany, Munarnmet Donmez; Turkey, Henning Soholm; Denmark, Eva Smuk Stratenwerth; Ziarno, Poland, Glenn Strachan; UK, Piotr Hillar; organic miller Poland, Evmorfia Triantafyllou; Greece, Ivan Manolov; Bulgaria, Frederic Seguret, France, Finbarr O‘Regan; Ireland

As a director of Athenry Area Development Company Athenry ADC l applied to partake in this study visit in Poland. Study visits are funded by the E.U. through Cedefop, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training and are administered for Irish applicants through our national agency, Léargas in Dublin.

Athenry ADC has recently achieved FETAC accreditation for its training centre and now offers a range of modules including some on Organic Horticulture and Education for Sustainability and we are interested in what’s happening internationally.

Sustainable Development

The purpose of the study visit was “to examine the educational potential hidden in organic farms, which could be used by farmers and agricultural counsellors and by teachers and educators”. One of the strengths of the visit was the diversity of the Study Visit team. With people drawn from eight different countries, participants represented diverse professional occupations and backgrounds, different types of educational institutions and local development organisations and enterprises. These included a research fellow from the International Research Institute in Sustainability, University of Gloucestershire, the Head of a German organic agricultural college, a professor of agriculture from a Bulgarian University, a Guidance Adviser for Environmental Education in Greece, a teacher from an Organic Agricultural College in Denmark, a water specialist from the Department of the Environment in France, a Director oi Vocational School Food Technology from Turkey and myself with a background in the integration of Education for Sustainability (EFS) in Carnaun National School, which has certified organic status.

The Study visit was hosted by Ecological-Cultural Association Ziarno, Grzybow, Poland run by Eva and Peter Stratenwerth, organic farmers, ably assisted by Monika Deja whose expertise as a translator enabled excellent communication between the participants. “Ziarno”, meaning “seed”, has existed since 1995, although its roots date back to 1987 and since then has dynamically developed a myriad of Education for Sustainability activities with partners throughout the world.

On a Farm Walk with Meiczslaw Babalsky, Pokizydowo second from left a poineer of the organic ‘revolution’. Meiczalaw preserves many old varieties of crops to improve organic farms systems.

Ziarno has engaged in a wide range of programmes aimed at sustainable rural development and developing the rural environment. Areas of activity include promoting co-operation between farmers, organic farming, education towards sustainable rural development (especially for young people), developing community entrepreneurship, and publishing their own local newspaper. They have also been involved in developing the culture, arts and traditions of the region. They have supported the development of a co-operative which sells agricultural produce directly in Warsaw and organic produce in the city of Plock.

Early Seeds

Peter and Eva are pioneers of the Poland Organic Agriculture Movement started in the 1980s due to growing public awareness. The first known facts about organic farming in Poland are from a period between world wars when, during the years 1931 to 1941, pioneer Stanislaw Karlowski was running a biodynamic farm in Silesia. He organized workshops and edited educational leaflets for farmers. Following his death during World War 11 the idea of organic farming did not come to the fore until 1960 when Julian Osetek started farming using biodynamic methods on his small three-hectare farm. He was farming quietly till 1981 when he gave his first lecture on the idea of biodynamic agriculture in Warsaw Agricultural University and some students and academics became interested in this idea.

Professor of soil ecology, Mieczyslaw Gorny, then became interested in biodynamic methods and put his theoretical knowledge into practice and became the most important promoter of organic farming among Polish farmers and scientists. From 1984 onwards courses in biodynamic farming given by Christian von Wistinghausen from Demeter, were held for Polish farmers. These early seminars given by the ‘revolutionary’ scientists and German experts led to the establishment of the first organic farmers association, called Ekoland, in 1989. The association became a full member of IFOAM in 1990.

Presenting Carnaun School’s method of integrating EfS in Primary Education

Wide ranging visits

Throughout the week we visited examples of best practice in EfS on organic farms and educational establishments in the provinces of Mazovia, Kujawsko-Pomorskie and Warminsko—Mazurskie to the north west of Warsaw.

Peter and Eva Stratenwerth provide hands-on experiential education enabling young people to understand where their food comes from and how it is produced. They combine day to day farming with EfS for schools and local organisations.

We visited Aleksandra and Mieczyslaw Babalscy from Pokrzydowo, also pioneers of the organic “revolution” who welcome educational groups and add value to their organic farm by integrating the processing of grain and other farm products into retail goods that are distributed through a wholesale network. They also research old varieties of crops to improve organic farming systems.

Another farmer / educator, Krystian Kujawski, who has an ecological farm in Kurztnik, explained his innovative organic farming practice, on comparatively poor soil, to his many visitors while his mother supplements their income by catering for them using her delicious home-grown organic foods. While Krystian can sell his grain to the Babalscy organic processing plant his meat goes to the conventional market.

Piotr Hillar, Tuczki, took valuable time out to show us his water mill and to explain the process of milling organic cereals and later during a sumptuous organic lunch, prepared by his wife, educated us on Poland’s involvement in WW2 and lightened the gruesome stories with some hilarious jokes.

Dorota Lepkowska, whose educational ecological farm is situated in the most idyllic setting near Godki where we experienced a night of Polish music and folklore, hosts a residential experience in which students from both city and rural areas learn about the cultural heritage of their society through craft and performance in an organic farm context,

We visited Warsaw University where we met Professor Eva Rembialkowska, Human Nutrition Faculty and Professor Anna Kalinowska, Centre for Environmental Studies – both champions of the organic movement in Poland and throughout Europe.

The auther with Eva and Peter Stratenwerth of Ecological-Cultural Association, Ziarno, Poland

Academic Research

Professor Rembialkowska is head of the Division of Organic Foodstuffs and Research at the university and works on the quality of organically produced crops, storage and sensory values and on the potential impact of organically produced food on animal and human health. This division, with modules on the integrated development and multifunctionality of the countryside based on organic agriculture, conducts many food analyses, especially plant analyses on several bio-compounds and vitamins in their high-tech analytical laboratory and offers advisory services in the field of organic farming, agri-tourism and other activities of rural citizens.

It is also involved in Simoca – setting up and implementation of a sustainable and multifunctional -Rural development model based on organic and competitive agriculture; Irene (Innovative Rural Development strategy based on local and trans-national Economic Networks) and is the Service centre for this project. The division is an active member of FQH (Food Quality and Health Association), Isofar (The International Society of Organic Agriculture Research) and of Ifoam (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).

Professor Eva was delighted to inform us her research has recently revealed that women systematically eating organic foods had better lifestyles and better physical and mental state than those on conventional foods”.

The group was privileged to meet Jacek Kiosiski, Headmaster, Vocational School, Plock, Grayna Rutkovska of Gymnasium No 6, Plock and Maria Perka, Primary School, Slubice, and visit their schools where their work on EfS and organic horticulture far surpasses that of the majority of Irish schools.

Group Findings

Peter and Eva Stratenwerth and Ziarno are interested in exploring practical ways of hands-on methods of education which connect concrete organic initiatives in rural areas with their educational potential. The main challenge is that sustainability is still more a slogan than reality. Their main focus is to present the educational potential hidden in organic farms, which could be used by farmers, agricultural counsellors, teachers and educators, and this was one of the main topics for discussion during the study visit. The approaches to Education for Sustainability (EfS) and organic farming in the nine countries represented on the study visit were presented and discussed by the participants. With regard to organic agriculture there was also a significant amount of common ground amongst the group. There are also differences and these differences seem mainly linked to the length of time a country has been engaged in promoting organic agriculture.

In our report to Cedefop the answer to the question “What is the most interesting/useful information that the group believes should be communicated to others” was;

“Education about organic food production is an important part of EfS and it is of educational value to all in the formal and non-formal sectors of education, including lifelong learners. it relates to human health and it is an excellent vehicle for teaching systems thinking, which is a fundamental principle of EfS.
Recognise the “farmer” as an educator and organic farms as educational resources. To enable this to happen certain actions need implementing:
Networks need to be established in order to facilitate co-operation between teachers and farmers.
Provide educational materials and teacher education courses to train teachers how to maximise the educational benefits of organic farms and integrate it into their curricula.

There are common problems across the EU with regard to organic farming and EfS, therefore there is the potential to co-operate to resolve these problems and prevent the creation of duplicate solutions, while recognising all solutions must take account of local contexts.

Young people, particularly young farmers, should be given the opportunity to visit different EU countries and meet organic farmers, as this learning experience is valuable not only for gaining knowledge of alternative farming methods, but also for broader citizenship education and international understanding”.

There was a unanimous decision by all partners that we must apply, with the host organisation, for funding to develop a lifelong learning project developing the educational (EfS) potential hidden in organic farms. The outputs from the project could be used by farmers and agricultural advisors and by teachers and educators.

l have always been interested in EfS and spent many happy years integrating it with the primary school curriculum in Carnaun National School. l have visited schools in Sweden, Finland, Latvia, UK and the USA where timesharing in the “wilderness” was a really enjoyable experience for school children. I visited schools where one day per week was devoted to EfS, but it all pales in significance when compared to the hands-on approach on working organic farms we were privileged to visit in Poland.

l am comforted with the thought that the sun rising in the beautiful eastern country of Poland will keep the EfS “Seed” of Ziarno flourishing and strong and will spread throughout Europe and beyond.

ln Ireland we could take a leaf from their sapling!

A full report on this Study visit can be seen at www.athenryadc.com, Ecological-Cultural Association Ziarno – www.ziarno.eu Léargas – www.leargas.ie, Cedefop – www.cedefop.europa.eu

Editor’s note: This article was first published in Organic Matters magazine issue 110, November / December 2009

“Best kept secret of World War 11″ made public after 60 years!

Earlier this year the Old Railway Hotel in Athenry was the historic venue for the commemoration of the wartime crash landing of a B17 Bomber called ‘Stinky. On board the plane at the time were three of the US army’s most senior officers.

The “Flying Fortress Athenry 1943 Project” as it has become known will

1. The Mark the 60th anniversary of the crash

2. Launch a permanent display in our Heritage Centre

3. Publish a book recording the facts insofar as they are known.

The organising team of Finbarr O’Regan, Gerry Ahern and Paul Browne are busy working with partners to make this commemoration a success.

There has been great interest expressed in the project locally and in the USA where exciting new material and data for the book and exhibition are being uncovered on a weekly basis.

We have been successful in an application for funding for the venture from the Galway Rural Development Company. Plans for the exhibition, commemorative plaque and book launch are well underway with the help of the Heritage Centre and Mellows College.

It is envisaged that the book, “Eagles Over Ireland” by Paul Browne will be launched in mid/late September.

At the Launch: Minister of State, Noel Treacy, TD, L. Col Patrick Moran, Renmore Barracks, Paul Browne, Gerry Ahern, Col. John O’Sullivan, Military Attache, Fnbarr O’Regan

We are indebted to our local Minister of State, Noel Treacy, TD for his cooperation and guidance in this project. We would also like to thank the following organisations and individuals who have supported the “Flying Fortress Athenry 1943 Project”:

American Embassy — Col. John O’Sullivan, Military Attache, USA Embassy

Irish Army — L. Col Patrick Moran, Renmore Barracks

Athenry Parish — Canon Anthony King, Rev. John O’Gorman

Athenry Credit Union — our main Sponsors

Athenry ADC who are the facilitators for this project

Athenry Community Council

Athenry Project Society

Athenry Arts and Heritage Company

Athenry Women’s Group

Athenry Tidy Towns Association

Galway Vocational Education Committee

Mellows Agricultural College


Athenry Civil Defence

An Garda Siochana

Athenry Fire Brigade

Galway Flying Club

FCA — formerly LDF

Galway Rural Development

Galway County Council

John Joe Brady Butchers

Seamus Fahy, Fahy’s Centra

Photographers: Joe Keating, Francis Kennedy and Lorna O’Regan,

Representatives from County Fermanagh — Breege McCusker, Author and Broadcaster and Joe O’Loughlin, Author and Historian.

Finbarr O’Regan, Chairperson Flying Fortress Athenry 1945

See also “Eagles over Ireland” by Paul Browne

“The Plane Crash” by Nuala King

“A Flying Visit” by Paul Browne