Grow It Yourself food-growing fund approves grants for 2015
Vegetable patch for asylum seekers among 200 projects to be aided by garden scheme
Michael Kelly, founder of Grow It Yourself, with Sara Whelan from New Ross’s edible quayside project. Some 200 projects have been approved for grant aid from a community gardens fund run by Grow it Yourself. Photograph: Patrick Browne
A vegetable garden for asylum seekers in Clonakilty, Co Cork and a community garden to reduce isolation on Inishbofin island, Co Galway are just two of some 200 projects that have been approved for grant aid from a community gardens fund.
The Get Ireland Growing Fund, run by the Grow It Yourself (GIY) organisation with support from AIB, has allocated €92,000 to food-growing projects by community groups, schools and not-for-profit schemes.
This is the third year of the initiative, which has already supported more than 400 projects.
These include the edible quayside project in Co Wexford, which has seen tomatoes flourishing on the railings at the New Ross quayside.
Sara Whelan, who leads the project, said it was inspired by Todmorden, a British town which grows thousands of vegetables in public places and encourages people to take them.
The New Ross group has also grown vegetables in beds on North Quay in the town and Ms Whelan said vandalism in the area had reduced because so many people were looking after the vegetable patches.
Resource teacher Caroline Jolley also explained how St Brigid’s National School in Stillorgan, Co Dublin got grant aid from the fund and now runs a community garden, orchard and poultry enterprise. They have 18 chickens and have fattened two pigs for slaughter.
“The children have no problem with that,” the teacher said, but recalled that the parents were more anxious about the trauma that might ensue.
Ms Jolley said: “It’s so important to know where your food comes from . . . We treated them beautifully and appreciated them more when we were eating the meat.”
“The children have embraced the whole outdoor life . . . they can now pick up a worm and tell you if it’s pregnant or not.”
Karen O’Donohoe started a community garden in the village of Ladysbridge in east Cork after she moved back from Britain. “It has brought people together who have never met before in this tiny village of 400 people,” Ms O’Donoghue said.
Her group has received two grants from the fund, totalling €1,750, and she said that they would be applying again.
Projects earmarked for funds in 2015 include a fruit tree planting initiative in schools in Bray, Co Wicklow, an allotment project at RTÉ and a horticultural project for unemployed men in Waterford that supplies salads to restaurants.
GIY founder Michael Kelly said he wanted to “make food-growing normal again in Irish society”.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Tom Hayes said the work GIY was doing was “something very special because we do forget at times where our food comes from”.
Mr Hayes said there was no doubt that producing healthy food was very important when it came to issues such as obesity.
“The real success is to be able to do it yourself,” he said. “There is no part of Ireland, or the city of Dublin or Limerick or any parish in Ireland, where an area could not be got to produce food.”