Introduction to G.I.Y (Grow it Yourself) Ireland
GIY Ireland - taking the “self” out of “self-sufficiency”!!
G.I.Y (Grow It Yourself) - An Introduction
With our economy in a perilous state and increasing concerns about the quality of our food system, there is unprecedented interest in producing organic food in back gardens, allotments and community gardens. Many people now believe that growing and rearing your own food is a lifestyle choice that not only makes sound economic sense, but also makes you feel more vibrant, alive and connected to your community and environment.
Unfortunately, right at the time when it would be most useful, there is a deficit of practical expertise about growing and rearing food. As individuals and as a society we have lost the necessary knowledge and skills that a generation ago would have been a given. GIY groups aim to take the ‘’self’’ out of ‘’self-sufficiency’’ by getting amateur growers together so that they can learn those skills from each other and connect with like-minded individuals.
Most of us will have been struck by the mythical camaraderie that exists on allotment plots - growers can stick their head over a fence and ask the expert grower in the neighbouring allotment how they have such wonderful carrots, or what to do about potato blight! GIY groups aim to facilitate those really useful informal exchanges of information and ideas between amateur growers, allowing the novice to learn from someone who has learned the hard way!
Journalist and author Michael Kelly set up the first GIY group in Waterford. Michael and his wife have been growing their own food for about five years in their garden - in 2008 they went in search of a local food growers group for them to join so that they could learn more about growing from some real experts and get to know other like-minded folk in the area. But there was no such group, and being a sucker for a hare-brained project, Michael decided to set one up.
Over 100 people showed up at the first meeting of GIY Waterford and the group continues to meets monthly in the city library. Of course you can't keep a good idea down and so not long afterwards, another GIY group was formed in nearby Dunmore East and then in neighbouring Wexford. In 2009 with the help of enthusiastic fellow growers from the Waterford group, Michael established GIY Ireland to promote back-garden vegetable growing and the idea of GIY groups nationwide. The organisation aims to establish GIY groups in every town and village in Ireland - there are now over 40 GIY groups around Ireland. GIY Ireland is a not-for-profit initiative and is supported by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Patrons of GIY Ireland include Diarmuid Gavin, Darina Allen, Clodagh McKenna and Joy Larkcom.
What does a GIY network do?
Inspire - give people the inspiration they need to get started or keep going.
Educate - provide practical instruction and information on how to grow/rear food organically. What to grow, when and how to grow it etc.
Network - foster a “grower's community” spirit
Marketplace - facilitate a “virtual” marketplace where people can buy/sell/barter excess produce.
Inform - about issues with commercial food growing and the food chain etc
Mentor - facilitate knowledge exchange between experienced growers and beginners
- Want to grow/rear their own food but are not sure where to start
- Are already growing/rearing their own food but want to learn more, get in touch with fellow foodies, or share the knowledge they gained the hard way!
- Have excess produce and want to barter/exchange with other growers
- Are concerned about food security, rising food costs and the impact of our food system on the planet - and who want to empower themselves by growing their own food
Benefits of joining a GIY network
- Better results from your food growing
- Connect with other food growers
- Have fun
- Be part of a community
Our Activities Include:
1. Monthly meetings
2. Talks and demos
3. Training courses
4. Garden visits
5. Seed and seedling swaps
6. Product bartering and exchange
7. Mentor panels - more experienced growers are available to beginners to answer questions and provide advice
8. Website Forum - allows members to stay in touch between meetings. The website will contain information on local GIY networks; information on aspects of back-garden growing e.g. soil preparation, crop rotation etc; growers calendars for each month; news and events; gallery; links; and an interactive forum where members can post questions, share information etc. http://www.giyireland.com
9. Grower's meitheals - GIYers get together in one another's gardens to carry out some growing-related tasks (e.g. making raised beds etc).
The word meitheal describes the old Irish tradition where people in rural communities gathered together on a neighbour’s farm to help save the hay or some other crop. Each person would help their neighbour who would in turn reciprocate. They acted as a team and everybody benefited in some way. This built up strong friendships and respect among those involved in the meitheal.
GIY meitheals are small groups of 6-10 people who meet up approximately monthly to carry out some growing-related task in one of the meitheal member’s garden. We have found the meitheals generate a huge level of camaraderie and friendship - they are hard work and great fun. The picture that was at the top of the page is of a meitheal held in December 2008 in Crooke, Co. Waterford - ten people got together to make raised beds in one of the meitheal member’s gardens. We shifted 10 tonnes of soil before lunchtime - a fine time was had by all! We have found that GIY members are fascinated by the idea of meitheals - they seem to latch on to some innate need we all have for a sense of belonging and community.
An interesting off-shoot of the meitheals is the idea of a seed meitheal - each member of a seed meitheal grows the contents of a packet of seeds in seed trays and then pots them up for sharing among other members. Each member only has to take care of one type of seed and gets five other types of potted up plants in return. For example one member might sow 50 tomato plants and give away 40 of them to fellow meitheal members. In return they might get back courgette, peas, broadbeans, squashes etc.
Once people get to know each other within a meitheal there is typically lots of other activity within the group - for example, mini-meitheals (two or three people might get together for a small job), seed packet swaps, information exchange etc. We are also interested in the idea of occasionally having a ‘meitheal mor’ - where a large group from the GIY gets together and does some food-production related charitable act, e.g. works on a vegetable garden for a school or old-folks home etc.
Interested in getting involved?
Right now we are looking for:
- local champions - people to set up GIY groups in their city, town or village
- sponsors and patrons - people or organisations that can help GIY Ireland achieve our goals
- people to get involved in GIY online and join our forum
For more information please see http://www.giyireland.com