A Grassroots Revolution – Grow It Yourself

I once lived in the gardening equivalent of an “ivory tower”.

I kept chickens, had an orchard of Heritage apples, composted, recycled and grew my own veg, organically of course.

And I would probably now be blogging smugly about it.

Then I moved to the city.

And it was here that I noticed the determination, drive, community spirit, inventiveness and sheer niceness of those who struggle to grow their own vegetables where land to do so is very scarce.

So this is their story, not mine.

The rooftop Urban Farm

The rooftop Urban Farm

Dublin’s Urban Farm is very difficult to find, though it’s in the very centre of the city – just very high above our heads!

Geraldine's garden 016

In 2012, Andrew acquired the roof space on top of the old Chocolate factory in King’s Inn Street and set about recycling containers to grow potatoes and making raised beds, of old scaffold boards, to support a variety of vegetables.

Geraldine's garden 017

The views up here, across Dublin’s skyline of church spires to the Dublin mountains beyond, are amazing. Worth the four flights of stairs to reach it. I wondered about the effort and determination to drag  scaffold boards, compost and all the other things necessary for this endeavour.

View across Dublin from the Urban Farm

View across Dublin from the Urban Farm

It is hoped that a city composting facility, run by Paddy, will be up and running, liaising with local restaurants.

In a room below, a hydroponics unit is also being set up whereby fish waste will fertilise the plants growing above.

Geraldine's garden 020

An enterprise like this needs real drive and hard work to succeed and I wish them well as they resolve any difficulties and build on their successes.

Recently, this return to  GYO/GIY  was the subject of the opening address, at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival.

Darina Allen spoke about the deep need to produce food locally once again. She had visited a number of projects in the US , including the 2.5 acre Brooklyn Grange (http://www.brooklyngrangefarm.com/) roof garden.

At Ballymaloe garden Festival

At Ballymaloe garden Festival

She described this Food Movement – the need to return to growing our own food – as a “Grassroots Revolution”.

70% of Ireland’s population live in urban or semi-urban areas and therefore it is their needs, to access space to grow and the skills and confidence to do so,  which have to be addressed.

Darina Allen at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival

Darina Allen at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival

Michael Kelly, who spearheaded Ireland’s Grow It Yourself movement (http://www.giyinternational.org/), spoke about “food empathy” when you grow your own. Food growers tend to recycle more, compost more and are prepared to pay more for quality produce.

He highlighted how ridiculous our food chain had become – last year Ireland produced enough food to feed 35 million people (in a population of 5 million) yet imported a staggering Euro5 billion of food!

Harvesting beetroot

Harvesting beetroot

One organisation trying to do something about the difficulty of growing food in an urban environment, where allotments are few and available land scarce, are the Dublin Community Growers.

I have sung their praises before.

This week I visited  another of the Community Gardens  – Scoil Colm Community Garden in Crumlin, in Dublin’s south side.

This is an initiative by “Walk”, an organisation for people with intellectual disabilities which enables them to live self-determined lives. When I visit, I am taken round the project by Hubert. He has been working there with the staff of Walk and its service users , providing  a learning experience and an aura of calm, and the results are impressive.

The first glance inside the polytunnel evinces a “Wow” ! Colourful, cheerful and well-organised.

Ballymaloe Garden Fest 152

The garden is situated on a piece of land behind Scoil Colm, and Hubert aims to involve the pupils there too in practical sessions on food growing.

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Why aren’t all schools doing this? Access to land / time in the curriculum/ teachers with the skills?

He has also involved the early school leavers from the Youthreach programme adjacent to the Community garden.

Art work - pupils from the Youthreach programme

Art work – pupils from the Youthreach programme

Their workshop constructed the wonderful raised beds and, in the art department, they decorated them.

The decorative raised beds built by the pupils of Youthreach

The decorative raised beds built by the students of Youthreach

Thus, involvement across the community is summed up in the shamrock badge.

A community working together

A community working together

Inside the polytunnel, one is overwhelmed by the wholesome and decorative produce – many varieties of tomato, aubergines, chilis, melons.

Tomato 'Super Marmalade'; large fruited from Provence.

Tomato ‘Super Marmalade’; large fruited, from Provence.

The chef from Youthreach arrives to pluck some veg which the students will then cook for lunch.

Aubergine 'Black Beauty'

Aubergine ‘Black Beauty’

There are even ancient grapevines, Cabernet Sauvignon, scrounged after a smart Wine Exhibition closed.

Cape gooseberries are being grown for use in a restaurant.

Physalis 'Golden Berry Gigante'

Physalis ‘Golden Berry Gigante’

The educational aspects are highlighted by clear signs explaining about the food being grown.

Clear signs with instructions

Clear signs with instructions

Food growers are wonderful at recycling, reusing, and sharing their expertise and Hubert conveys his passion for growing in a gentle and humourous way – how lucky those young people are to benefit from his lifetime of experience.

Hubert tending the tomatoes

Hubert tending the tomatoes

My taste buds exploded as he plucked cherry tomatoes or the delicious Yellow Pear for me to try.

Tomato 'Green Sausage'; high-yielding and delicious to cook with.

Tomato ‘Green Sausage’; high-yielding and delicious to cook with.

The greenhouse was constructed from plastic bottles with the aid of the schoolboys of Scoil Colm and the Youthreach teenagers – learning from the experience and giving them ownership of it.

It is this involvement by the service users of Walk, the pupils of Scoil Colm and the teenagers of Youthreach which is very impressive.

It is essential that we involve our youth in the process of food growing.

Hubert and assistant Ray outside the plastic bottle greenhouse

Hubert and assistant Ray outside the plastic bottle greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse, onions hang to dry.

Ballymaloe Garden Fest 164

Of course, I wasn’t allowed to leave emptyhanded.

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What a delicious salad and ratatouille I had afterwards.

Didn’t I mention what lovely people Grow Your Owners are?

(All photography mine; feel free to use any of Jardin’s images but please credit and link back).

Community gardeners from Dublin Community Growers will be holding their Harvest Festival in Wolfe Tone Square on Sat 14th Sept from 12 to 5pm. They will be able to answer any questions on the subject of food growing.


10 thoughts on “A Grassroots Revolution – Grow It Yourself

  1. Hi
    thanks for your great write up on our community garden in crumlin. It is due to the hard work of our staff and service users of walk with the superb help of youth reach and students of scoil Colm that has brought it to where it is now and this will continue to continually improve the gardens and the important job of community groups working together to reach a common goal.


  2. Pingback: 10 Best Garden Photos of 2013 | Jardin

  3. Pingback: Urban Community Gardening – Dublin’s Grassroots Revolution. | Jardin

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