Louth Urban Food Sanctuary


October 2023 saw the launch of the Louth Urban Food Sanctuary (LUFS) in Creative Spark Dundalk.  Funded under the government’s Creative Climate Action Fund II this innovative project aims to help to mitigate against the increasing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and the rising cost of living by empowering Louth’s citizens with the skills to improve sustainability by developing our local food resilience.  The project leads, Louth County Council, have partnered with Creative Spark and will be working with local people to develop a community garden.

The new community garden at Creative Spark will provide an excellent opportunity to bring together people from across the social and cultural spectrum of the North Louth area.  Shared experience and growing trials will help to explore the diversity of herbs, fruit and vegetables that are possible to be grown here.  This initiative will not only help to secure the future of heritage Irish fruit and vegetables but will also help in our understanding of what new crops could be cultivated and encouraged for growth in Louth.

Community gardens like that at LUFS help to emphasise how citizens’ food choices can impact on climate and how eating locally grown, seasonally produced food can help to reduce our individual carbon footprint.  It is hoped that providing more people with the skills to grow their own food, will help to promote the ripple effect encouraging more positive action throughout our community for climate change.

What is Biodiversity 

Biodiversity is short for biological diversity and describes the variety of life on our planet. This goes beyond wild plants and animals to include all living things and the living systems they are part of. Biodiversity encompasses the variation between different species, the genetic diversity of individuals within a species, the variety of spaces, habitats, and ecosystems these species create and inhabit and the natural patchwork of landscape patterns they create. People and the various man-made habitats we create in farmland, parks and gardens are also part of biodiversity. Our planet relies on a rich wealth of biodiversity for healthy ecosystems to thrive and function to provide the resources and services upon which all life depends. Within more than 2 million gardens in Ireland, gardens provide an important space for people to make a difference to the wealth of biodiversity around us.

Food growing and biodiversity

Gardens are important sanctuaries for wildlife, particularly in urban areas where green-space can be limited and fractured.  Encouraging more people to make the most of their own outdoor space be it a garden or windowsill helps to provide habitat and food for a more diverse range of plants and animals enhancing biodiversity.  

Initiatives like LUFS will promote gardening for improved biodiversity, encouraging the growth of herbs, fruit and vegetables helping to reverse the decline in our vital pollinators, providing food for other wildlife and fostering sustainable gardening and soil practices like composting.  It is hoped that the work of LUFS will provide an accessible best practice example of how individuals and communities can help implement the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan at a local level by making more of our gardens pollinator friendly, encouraging an improved network of biodiverse spaces and improving habitat connectivity.  Information about gardening for biodiversity can be found here. For advice, and resources and to pledge your garden for pollinators please click here.  To find out more about pollinator friendly herbs click here.


Impacts of climate change on County Louth. 

County Louth in Ireland is experiencing noticeable impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns are influencing the region’s agriculture, affecting crop yields and livestock management. Increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as storms and heavy rainfall, contributes to flooding and erosion, impacting local infrastructure and communities.

Rising sea levels pose a threat to coastal areas, including places like Dundalk and Drogheda, leading to concerns about coastal erosion and potential damage to properties. The changing climate also affects biodiversity and ecosystems, influencing the behaviour and distribution of plant and animal species in the region.

These climate-related challenges demand adaptive strategies and resilient infrastructure to safeguard communities and the local economy. Collaborative efforts, both locally and nationally, are essential to mitigate the impacts and build a sustainable future for County Louth in the face of a changing climate. 

Community Climate Action. 

Communities and individuals can make more sustainable choices to contribute to effective community climate action. For example, Monaghan Tidy Towns have trialled a Dispersed Urban Orchard (DUO). Which contains ‘Highlight Habitats’ and a Greenway promoting the possibility of having interconnecting routes between them. The DUO Project also promotes fruit trees in peoples back gardens living in Monaghan to encourage ecological corridors between urban orchards. 

The Louth Urban Food Sanctury (LUFS) provides community groups with the knowledge and support on how to make more climate friendly and sustainable food choices. Community groups across Louth will promote sustainable climate action by taking part in the LUFS project, over the next number of months. LUFS focuses on growing locally sourced produce, while promoting diversity and inclusivity across community groups in Louth.

Community groups will trial Ginger, Bok Choi, Heritage Peas, Garlic, Ugu and Sweet Potatoes from Autumn 2023 to the end of 2024. Communities will record how their produce grows in response to Ireland’s temperatures and climate. 

In addition to this Food and Waste is one of the five themes listed within the Community Climate Action Fund. The main focus for community groups is to cut down on the amount of food waste in Ireland as it is estimated that 33% of all food in Ireland is wasted, accounting for 10% of our overall global emissions. The Climate Action Plan has also set a goal for the agricultural sector in Ireland to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030.

‘Supporting and promoting local, sustainable food producers, is a positive climate action, we are using the arts to look at what foods will best reflect county Louth’s population in response to our changing climate’ –Dr. Rory Sheehan, Climate Action Co-Ordinator, Louth County Council.

The power of community climate action.

The power of communities coming together for climate action is unparalleled. Collective efforts amplify impact, fostering resilience and innovation. Local initiatives, from tree planting to sustainable practices, create a ripple effect, inspiring widespread change. Through shared knowledge and resources, communities cultivate sustainable habits, influencing policy and fostering a sense of global responsibility. The synergy of individuals united in climate action not only mitigates environmental challenges but also builds a more interconnected and resilient world, emphasising the transformative strength inherent in unified community efforts.

The importance of local food growing.

Growing food locally by community groups and individuals serves as a powerful climate action measure with multifaceted benefits. One of the primary advantages is the reduction of carbon emissions associated with the transportation of food over long distances. By cultivating and consuming locally sourced produce, communities contribute to a significant decrease in the carbon footprint of the food supply chain. This aligns with the global effort to mitigate climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Local food production also enhances resilience in the face of climate-related challenges. As climate change brings about more extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, and unpredictable growing seasons, a decentralised and locally-focused food system can adapt more effectively. Diverse local crops and resilient agricultural practices provide a buffer against the impacts of a changing climate.

Furthermore, local food initiatives often emphasise sustainable farming practices. Community gardens, urban farming projects, and individual efforts to grow food locally can prioritise eco-friendly methods such as organic farming, permaculture, and water conservation. These practices not only reduce the environmental impact of agriculture but also promote biodiversity and soil health, key elements in climate resilience.

In addition to the environmental benefits, growing food locally strengthens community ties and promotes food sovereignty. Community members engaged in local food production often share knowledge, resources, and support, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and connection. This collective approach contributes to building resilient, self-sufficient communities capable of facing the challenges posed by a changing climate.

Ultimately, community groups and individuals growing food locally represent a grassroots movement that aligns with broader climate action goals. By addressing the environmental, social, and economic aspects of food production, local initiatives become integral components of a sustainable and climate-resilient future.


The impact of Air Miles from food production on climate change 

Air miles in food production significantly contribute to climate change. Transporting goods over long distances by air releases substantial carbon emissions, intensifying the carbon footprint of the food supply chain. This practice accelerates global warming, as aviation emissions contain potent greenhouse gases. The environmental impact extends beyond carbon, encompassing various pollutants. Reducing reliance on air transport in favour of local sourcing minimises these emissions, mitigating the ecological toll associated with food production and distribution. Recognising and addressing the role of air miles is crucial in fostering a more sustainable and climate-friendly approach to the global food system.

The importance of heritage vegetable verities.

Heritage vegetable varieties play a pivotal role in preserving biodiversity and ensuring food security. These time-tested cultivars carry unique genetic traits, adapted to specific climates and soil conditions. Embracing heritage vegetables promotes agricultural diversity, reducing dependence on a limited set of commercial crops. Their resilience to pests and diseases, coupled with diverse flavors and textures, enrich culinary experiences. Preserving these heirloom varieties safeguards agricultural traditions and fosters resilience in the face of climate change. By cultivating and consuming heritage vegetables, we contribute to a sustainable, diverse food system that honors the past while securing the future of our agricultural heritage.

Embracing new fruits and vegetables.  

Embracing new varieties of fruits and vegetables introduced to Louth is a culinary and agricultural boon. These diverse offerings infuse local markets with a vibrant tapestry of flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits previously unfamiliar to our County. The introduction of novel produce not only expands culinary horizons but also contributes to a more resilient and adaptable agricultural landscape. These new crops often bring unique adaptations to local climates, enriching biodiversity and potentially offering solutions to agricultural challenges.

Moreover, the integration of these new varieties enhances cultural exchange, fostering understanding and appreciation among communities. By celebrating and incorporating these fruits and vegetables into our diets, we not only enjoy a richer gastronomic experience but also promote inclusivity, recognising the valuable contributions of diverse cultures to our shared agricultural heritage. This embrace of new varieties not only enhances our plates but also strengthens the social fabric of communities.


 Providing more people with the skills to grow their own food

New Community Garden

The new community garden at Creative Spark will provide an excellent opportunity to bring together people from across the social and cultural spectrum of the North Louth area.