Grow it Yourself (GIY), which wants to transform the nation's wellbeing, strengthen communities and protect the environment by helping people to grow their own food, has been awarded a 2011 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award. The organisation is on a mission to empower people from all walks of life and of all ages to grow their own food successfully. Established in 2009, there are now approximately 12,000 ‘GIYers’ around the country who are coming together in community groups and online to learn, share and grow.
In accepting the award, GIY founder Michael Kelly thanked the organisation’s volunteers around Ireland and put two “Big Asks” to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny who was presenting the awards. GIY called on the government to help re-shape Irish society and communities by:
- Putting food growing on the curriculum in schools so that kids can experience the joy of producing their own food
- Help GIY to make unused land available for community gardens and allotments so that people who don’t have space to grow their own can do so.
In his acceptance speech Kelly told the story of how an incident in a supermarket 5 years ago opened his mind to the problems in the food chain - discovering that the garlic he was about to toss in to his trolley was imported from China. “In Ireland we produce enough food each year to feed 34 million people and yet we still import €5 billion worth of food each year,” he said. “It just doesn’t make any sense, and it has a direct impact on people’s health, communities, Irish jobs and the environment.”
Spurred on by his “garlic incident” to grow his own food he then set about trying to convince other people to do the same, establishing GIY to inspire people to grow and give them the skills to grow successfully. “The beauty of it is that we don’t have to get everyone to grow all their own food. Once we can get people to grow anything, say some salad leaves on a balcony, then their whole relationship with food starts to change. When they do go to the supermarket, they buy more local and seasonal food which is good for their health, community, jobs and the environment.”
Kelly also talked about the impact that GIYing has on the individual. “More and more research shows that growing your own food is fantastic for your physical, mental and emotional health. You’re eating the healthiest food, getting exercise, out in the fresh air, and when you grow as part of a GIY group there is the added advantage of the incredible camaraderie you get from being part of a community group.”