A farmer and an economist with a passion for community development; Aidan Gillan is not easy to neatly classify. He has in some ways come full circle in his life from his early life helping his father, grow potatoes near Lissadell to running his own organic farm just a few miles down the road. The intervening years are jam packed with education, travel, marriage, children and so much more.
In his earlier years, it seemed that Aidan was the most likely of seven siblings to take over the family farm. He loved learning by his father’s side and was always attracted to the magic of growing. He graduated from college in Galway with a degree in Commerce, although it was the complexities of Economics which captured his imagination. During his studies he took time out both to help at home and to spend time working in England and expanding his horizons a little. Post graduation, a job as a cash clerk in Hanson’s in Cleveragh restricted his restless soul; Aidan wanted to experience a different type of life. That he certainly did, taking on a 12 month placement in Thailand with Concern. Working both in Bangkok and in a vast refugee camp in the north, he found satisfaction in helping others to develop. He was in charge of the sports programme and also facilitated setting up various projects and training – from typing to baking.
Returning to Ireland, he worked as a volunteer, again in the area of community development working in north Dublin setting up some businesses, starting a free local paper and creating jobs.
Aidan’s next move was to Zambia, working to help local people develop skills which matched the potential needs in their areas. Called Training for Transformation it was very successful and imitated in other areas. Unsurprisingly Aidan went on to do a Masters in Empowerment of People in UCD, studying three different communities including this one in Zambia.
In the intervening years, Aidan has managed a community development workshop in Athlone for a couple of years and spent three more in the fascinating country of Tanzania working in the co-op area. He bought the farm near Cliffoney in 1997 but just as he had it working properly, an opportunity came for his then wife to work in Carrick on Shannon and they relocated. Never one to sit still, Aidan managed a couple of community projects, began an organic import business and also set up a health food shop in Roscommon Town which still exists. It bears the iconic and instantly memorable name ‘Tattie Hoaker’ which Aidan also uses for his organic farm.
Since 2010 he has run Tattie Hoaker Organic Farm nearly full time. He supplies local restaurants like Eithna’s By the Sea and Ósta as well as some shops and also runs a successful box system (some subscriber spaces available). Community development is still very close to Aidan’s heart, he welcomes visitors and workers to the farm and is currently Chairman of the recently formed Cliffoney Country Market.