Last week we dealt with the increasing popularity of growing your own fruit and vegetables and of the trend back to allotments to pursue this renewed interest. It’s a life-style thing in its desire to get back to basics and a healthy sense of self reliance not to mention the big bonus of producing your own wholesome, tasty food by dint of your own labour as you honed your skills of husbandry along the way. We brought you a report of the fine quality allotments developed by Bill Spencer out Ballinamona way which are proving to be a great success and there has been brisk demand for plots there. I had a very positive and interested response to the piece. People have been suggesting that they would like to see a government backed policy to encourage/enable Local Councils to support the growing movement which has so many positive benefits. This happened early in the last century where government policy and subsequent action made provision for allotments, grant-aiding where and when required. They talk about the ‘Smart Economy’ well this would be a very smart move on so many levels. I would refer you to the Social Entrepreneurs piece below.

Our Home Farmer

We go this week to talk about a very down-to-earth guy who has been enjoying the ‘good life’ for the past ten years out in Dunmore East. I speak of Michael Kelly who Traded Places from the world of IT in Dublin to embrace the world of Home Farming. .Michael was not content to reap the benefits of this new home-grown life-style he wanted to share his knowledge and enthusiasms with others so he set out to broadcast it among others. And happily a lot of this fell on fertile soil as this enthusiasm led to foundation of the GIY – Grow It Yourself – movement. I recall about 4 years ago Michael calling his first public meeting in the Central Library in Lady Lane to promote the whole concept. Today it has grown into a national movement with at least 50 braches throughout the country – how those seeds of his ideas have already yielded such a bountiful harvest.

Michael has developed a wonderfully informative website which gives us various insights into his world of work, . Here we read about his two top selling books Trading Places and the recently published Tales from The Home Farm. As an author, journalist, broadcaster he is much in demand as a contributor on many radio programmes both national and local and beyond, as well as on popular life-style TV shows. He is a much sought after speaker at Good Food Festival forums/workshops. Again he will be playing a significant role at the upcoming Dungarvan Food Festival along side top chefs like Paul Flynn of the Tannery 17/19 April, as well as the Granny’s Day Slow Cooking event at Dunhill on the25th with the likes of Darina Allen and others.

A Social Entrepreneur

It was good to see that Michael’s pioneering work has been justifiably acknowledged at as national level as he received a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award recently at a ceremony in The Exchange, the newly renovated former Labour Exchange on Dublin’s Gardiner Street. Guest of Honour was President McAleese. The award was in recognition of his work on GIY Ireland, which is encouraging people all over Ireland to grow their own vegetables and providing them with the practical help they need to do so.  Established in 2004, the annual Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards are supported by NTR and have disbursed over 3.44 million to over 142 people and organisations who have brought their innovative ideas to drive social change in Ireland. Thirty one social entrepreneurs from throughout the country received awards this year – the 2009 Awardees ranged across a wide variety of social issues, community and active citizenship.

The Chief Executive of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, called on the Government to consider innovation in relation to society as well as business. “Over recent times innovation has emerged as a key driver of our growth and prosperity, with the Irish government believing it will be critical in helping Ireland develop as a smart economy. Social Entrepreneurs Ireland believes that not only does Ireland need a smart economy, it needs a just society. And, like the government, we agree innovation will play a key role in achieving this goal. However we believe it is essential that when looking at innovation we look at it not just in a commercial context but also in a broader societal context.” he said.  “It is not enough to create a Smart Economy, the government also needs to focus on establishing a responsible and fair society in order to protect the vulnerable” he added.

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland believes that innovation and social change in Ireland will be driven by exceptional people with exceptional ideas. They have developed a support model that helps these social entrepreneurs grow their ideas from concept to reality. Michael has proven his worth in this regard.

GIY Movement

The website of the GIY – grow it yourself – movement is equally informative at .complete with a growing guide for each month. The following quote about themselves gives a good insight into the attraction of the movement to so many: “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!” The Brasscock attended the local March meeting – a very positive experience, indeed.

Hats off to Michael Kelly!