alternative Castle Gardens, Lisburn (again)

I couldn’t contain myself yesterday and ended up dandering past Castle Gardens, Lisburn looking over the town (sorry, I mean city)and tried to imagine what it would look like with some poly-tunnels for a mini-farm over the various terraces. Above is a quick rough sketch of what I had in mind. I’m not sure it would work, but the terraces below the main part of the park seem to me to be nothing but grass and walls.

Here’s where my imagination sometimes takes me.
If you are going to let Tesco, Dobbies, Sainsbury, M&S and John Lewis build huge stores on the outskirts of town fine – but charge them an environmental tax. Maybe that is included in the rates they pay to the council already etc, but my thinking is that if people should have to pay parking fees for the centre of Lisburn to cut down on congestion in the town centre, why shouldn’t they also pay to use car parks round the Sprucefield site which is often congested?
Or else drop the parking charges in town centres so that its not one rule for the big boys and another for the small retailers.

With the money raised through the environmental tax put a roof over Market Square and turn it into a proper sheltered market, like St. George’s Market so that you can have a market with shelter from the Northern Irish weather. Make this space an independent area with fair rates, not crazy over-priced rates.
Also build a little farm on Castle Gardens, so that it can supply good healthy, organic food in the area (maybe a vegetable box scheme?) to places like the Island Centre, Lisburn College, the schools. Maybe the college could run courses in conjunction with the farm and kids from local schools could come up and learn about growing vegetables, keeping chickens or looking after our dwindling natural resources. You could have cookery classes and a small cafe/shop supplying Fairtrade, organic things. You would need farmers to grow things so it would give a few people work. They could sell the produce down at the market as well.

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ploughing up the Moss?

Walking up, down and around the back streets of Lisburn the other night I was thinking how cool it would be to have an urban farm round the place. All those residential homes, house upon house with small lawns and pebbled dashed walls between neighbours and  no kale or brussel sprouts in sight.

There are 3 large lawns in particular beside each other on the Moss Rd that I’d love to turn into lazy beds and grow rocket, kale, raspberries and chard on.

We’d grow nice organic fruit and veg on the lawns during the growing season and on Friday morning’s we’d get a bicycle with a small trailer and do veg box deliveries up and down the Moss Rd.

We’d take your food waste from home and turn it into compost (or feed it to the pigs), open a little Co-op which traded the Fairtrade and eco-goods which we couldn’t grow or produce ourselves.

We could plant different varieties of apple/plum trees on the footpaths and keep bees, chickens and pigs if we could get that organised.

A polytunnel or two? Yes please!
Some big native trees planted?Yes please!

There seems to me to be reasons why an urban farm around Lisburn would make sense, more sense  in fact than other ways we use land around our towns.

Surely it would create work for people who are unemployed for one?
People are always (at least as far as I’m aware anyway) going to have to eat and perhaps creating an organic urban farm system in Lisburn or Belfast would be a more sustainable and useful way to create employment than bringing a John Lewis to town?

Sustainable production  over unsustainable consumption?
Makes sense to me…

a) BBC in Detroit
b) Middlesborough
c) general article

d) self sufficient article in Times

church organic farming


I just can’t get the idea out of my head that it would be a God glorifying thing for a church to own or support an organic farm and run it well for the local community. I’ve tried explaining why I thought this would be a good idea to a couple of people, but my tongue gets tied and my thoughts go cloudy.

There are lots of  thoughts that have brought me to this conclusion but at the heart of it is the fact that Christians believe that the land belongs to God (not man) and because of that we should use it well. Its His handiwork.
We were made in his image, and part of that image is to be gardeners and stewards of the earth, to make sure that this world that God proclaimed good should be used wisely.

Too often Christian have thought that the most important thing that we should be up to on earthn they pass away they go to be with Jesus or something like that. Heaven in my head has traditionally been a place that it bright, brighter than bright and hear dodgey praise music such as you might hear in a Faith Mission bookshop. Do I really want to go  to a place called Heaven if all we do is play Robin Mark songs all day long for eternity?

Yet I’ve been having my head blown away by Tom Wright’s book ‘Surprised by Hope’, because it is making sense of why the first Christians stood before lions and spread what they had heard about Jesus with conviction, despite the oppostion.
It makes sense of why we should work in the now to heal and redeem the planet, why Christians should care about stuff like organic farming or architecture, why we should plant trees and feed the hungry.

If a church owned a farm/community garden it would be like saying we are the proper stewards of the earth, we are redeemed people who are working for the Kingdom of Heaven. We want to heal that which has been used unwisely and to make it healthy again, to make it a beautiful space that hints at that which is to come.

We’re to be about the earthing of heaven.

Perhaps an organic farm would mean that

a) we could treat the creation carefully, to use techniques that might heal the soil rather than strip it, to grow healthy and tasty food, to witness to the world with the goodness of our harvest.

b) we would be able to source our ‘daily bread’ for our local community without added oil, oil which is choking God’s good creation. That can only be a good thing. Oil is a limited resource that we have become too reliant on.

As I watch the floods in Pakistan I keep wondering if somehow I’ve been implicated in what has happened.
Are our oil addicted Western lifestyles making weather patterns more unpredictable and severe around the world?

c) we could connect the community back to the land, witness that we live by God’s grace and bountiful creation,that we are actually serious about the physical redemption of the planet. You could have school kids up in the morning to learn about where their food comes from.

d) we could create jobs for the underemployed. Organic farming is more labour intensive and that is a good thing. Of course some farm jobs are boring and tedious but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. We could give fair wages for the workers, perhaps to the long term unemployed or those who are not given a fair chance in life.

e) you could have a retreat centre on the site for artists, you help out round the farm in the morning to earn your keep and then in the afternoon you go and paint, write your poetry, record your music, have a beer.

that and other stuff as well…

36 views of Samson & Goliath – No 9, Victoria Square

they’ve just painted the hand rails grey, its higher than you think, look at the cranes –  they have merged into one, they could be growing things up here on that flat roof, think about footbridges above our heads linking urban farms on the rooftops of Belfast

thy will be dung

what if we planted vegetables,herbs, flowers and had fruit trees on our church land instead of just lawns?
For one thing lawns seem to me to be about maintaining the status quo, keeping the grass nice and neat whereas vegetables and fruit are about producing  a crop.
You could give extra produce away to the needy, grow sunflowers for the sick and have communion over a soup lunch grown on the former church lawn.