How to grow your own food with the GIY movement
And anyone who wants to learn more about growing can start a GIY branch
The Grow It Yourself (GIY) movement supports seed sharing and plant swapping. Photograph: Changex.org
The ChangeX 100 social enterprise project wants Irish people to launch 100 new community projects in 100 days. Changex.org contains an online toolkit for setting up local enterprises: from GIY groups to Men’s Sheds. Here, members of the Grow It Yourself movement share their experiences
It has been six years since Michael Kelly invited growers in Waterford to a meet-up to talk about their experiences with growing their own fruit and vegetables - 100 people showed up.
This year, the Grow It Yourself movement will work with 65,000 people in 1,500 community groups and projects around Ireland and abroad.
“Its success is thanks to hundreds of people around Ireland who take it into their own hands to start their local groups and infect thousands with their enthusiasm,” says Kelly.
It happens thanks to people like Claire O’Brien. The young mother of two had a couple of years of experience in growing when she visited a GIY meet-up in Clontarf in Dublin and, together with her friend Aoife, was inspired to do the same where she lived, in Crumlin, Walkinstown.
That was three years ago. Since then, each month, she has brought a group of 15 to 20 people together in the local library to chat about topics like seeding, composting, permaculture, how to start an allotment or about the different varieties of potatoes.
“I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in growing; we have a lot of people in our group who know a lot more about it than me,” says O’Brien. “My role is a facilitator in bringing these people together and share knowledge on growing – I love that I learn more every week as well.”
Shane Maher was even more amateur when he took over the organisation for an existing GIY group that meets regularly on the Airfield farm in Dundrum. “I had tried to grow a small amount of carrots, and I didn’t have a clue how to really grow anything edible in bigger amounts,” says Maher. “But I had an idea of how to get people talking to each other, so I just started doing that.”
Having grown up on a farm, Maher had a memory of digging for potatoes in the fields rather than picking them up in the supermarket, and when he moved to Dublin for college and for work he wanted to re-establish that connection.
“I learn best from talking to people. Without the GIY group I might have given up on growing quite quickly, believing it’s only for people who have the time to do it professionally.”
O’Brien and Maher organise their meet-ups in a similar way. Both try to mix it up a bit to keep it interesting and interactive for the people who join. They regularly invite guest speakers and look for different ways to keep people interested.
“We are a very interactive group, everyone always has a lot of questions and every meet-up ends with some tea and cake to create a nice atmosphere for some chatter,” says O’Brien.
Another regular highlight in most GIY groups is the plant swap. “Everyone is asked to plant a few extra pots to bring to the group and swap with others. That way we can mix the varieties and you always try something new,” explains Claire.
But a GIY group provides more than a regular meet-up for like-minded people and chatter about seeding, planting and eating. Often the groups become the local hub for growing food, and education on healthy nutrition and food.
Members provide their creativity, knowledge and ambitions and eventually really grow together with the communities around them, so to speak.
“We helped establish a patient’s therapeutic food garden at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, which has been a great addition to the hospital while also allowing the GIY group to do something tangible for the community,” tells Shane, who also has created a small area for growing at his work place.
Claire brought her new gained skills to the local school and started a school garden project which allows 300 schoolchildren to get a free gardening lesson every week. “I love it, and I am so proud of it. It’s just great to see the enthusiasm of the children, and I see the impact it has with my own two kids. They will eat what they have grown and even love broccoli now.“
“Anyone who would like start a GIY group is welcome to do so – everyone’s motivation is different,” stresses Claire.
“It’s not easy to connect with people around you, particularly living in the city. Everyone has their walls up,” Shane says. “With the GIY group l really feel part of the community.”
GIY in five easy steps