The Top Summer Organic Festivals in Ireland
Ireland is blessed with a climate that largely avoids extremes of hot and cold, which translates into an above-average number of opportunities for enjoying outdoor life, and for festive social gatherings. Such festivals provide organic farmers with an excellent opportunity to showcase their wares, and to impart a message of nearness to nature that should better resonate with those who are in an upbeat and receptive mood.
The ‘locally grown’ nature of organic food also fits in well with the tendency of festivals to celebrate a culture that is as ‘localised’ as possible, allowing consumers to feel as if they are contributing to their culture as well as supporting the ecology. So, though the message of organic farming is often spread through conferences – many of them organised by the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association [IOFGA] – it is festivals, farmers’ markets, and fairs that really allow for organic farmers to shine, allowing the public to ‘taste the difference’ for themselves.
The IOFGA hosts a number of event announcements on its home pages, which provide a quick way to get up to speed on gatherings either based around or featuring organic food. The bank holiday weekend of the first week of May (which is, of course, also the occasion of Beltane) provides one such opportunity, the Roscommon Lamb Festival. The festival will enter its 6th year of existence in 2013, and its stated mission is clearly an organic one, i.e. it is meant to “highlight the quality of locally-produced food, and to attract additional tourists to Roscommon, therefore boosting the local economy and benefitting primary producers and suppliers”.
To this end, visitors can not only enjoy the tastes and aromas of the sheep barbecue or global kitchen, but can participate in growing their own garden during the festival. Even though some of the festival events involve a fee of €10-15 for entry (e.g. the guided ‘food trail’ tour, or some of the musical performances and dances), the majority of festival features are free of charge (generally staffed by volunteers), and easily adaptable to festival-goers of all ages.
The Bloom Festival organized by Bord Bia [the Irish Food Board], meanwhile, takes advantage of the June holiday of Lá Saoire i mí Mheitheamh, and, as it centres largely around gardening, is an excellent opportunity to both offer and enjoy ‘artisan food’. Held in the Phoenix Park region of Dublin – which locals will already be familiar with for the people’s gardens situated there – the event has a high enough profile that it is often visited by dignitaries and heads of state. In fact, President McAleese claimed it was this event that inspired her family to take up vegetable growing in Roscommon.
Many of the culinary delights at the festival come from well-known luminaries within the gourmet food world, and nearly 50 local growers are represented in the Bord Bia Food Village. A “grow your own” stand will also be on hand providing advice to prospective growers. Passes to the event have, in recent years, cost around €25, though they can be had at discounted prices if you look hard enough.
Provided that temperate weather lasts into mid-September, another date not to exclude from your organic events calendar is National Organic Week. Though it falls in the second week of September, and therefore does not fully coincide with the summer weather, this week can provide organic farmers and growers with an ideal occasion for seeing the summer off. One event associated with National Organic Week includes the Portumna Forest Picnic set amid majestic woodlands several hundred years in age.