Editor’s note: Bella Supiana is working with JJ Kavanagh & Sons on a new series called ‘Tastes of Ireland’. She’ll be travelling to our destinations around Ireland and scouting out the best places to eat for hungry travellers. In this post she took a bus trip to GIY HQ in Waterford City.
On our latest #TastesofIreland trip to Waterford we were lucky enough to visit ‘Grow It Yourself’ HQ on the Dunmore road in Waterford. JJ Kavanagh & Sons buses pass here daily so hop on and take a trip to the veggiest place in Ireland! What’s even better news, if you show your bus ticket in the GIY HQ restaurant you will get 10% OFF your food bill! Psssst…I also shot a Facebook live video while down there so head over and check it out for yourself.
Grow It Yourself Waterford
Grow It Yourself, an international movement, started back in 2008 when founder Michael Kelly decided he wanted to grow his own vegetables. In a supermarket one day, he came across ‘fresh’ garlic that had been imported to our little island all the way from China. This was his eureka moment and in the words of Claire, GIY’s knowledgeable and welcoming communications manager, he ‘stormed out the door and said he was going to plant his own garlic’. With the success of planting his very own pungent member of the allium family, an idea came to mind that if he could do it then anybody could too… And with the enjoyment it brought him came the desire to share it with the world and that is how this fantastically empowering movement was born!
When all he could find were flower growing groups and being the type of grower that only sows what he can eat, he was forced to create his very own growing group. With the realisation of people’s interest in growing their own food, he set up a few more groups throughout Ireland. GIY turned a new chapter when Michael needed to support all these groups and this is when it started to have that snowball effect over the Irish people. People seem more concerned as to where their food comes from today and I find it fascinating that a lot of us want it to be on our balconies or back gardens! Fresh isn’t the word and what Michael has created has allowed for self-sufficiency and a nudge of confidence for any novice grower.
Since starting a near decade ago, GIY has gone from strength to strength. Today it reaches growers from as far as America to Australia and nationwide in Ireland. Michaels ‘Grow, Cook, Eat’ book won the prestigious Gourmand World Award in 2015, they publish a quarterly grow magazine, run school competitions to get children enthused and take part in festivals such as Bloom and Ballymaloe Litfest to spread the love and encourage more people to take part in effectively feeding themselves from plot to plate.
In the past few months they have launched their new eco built 1.45m Grow HQ. A huge proportion of that investment came from crowd funding and corporate entities such as AIB, Applegreen and Three Mobile. This goes to show how their organisation has resonated amongst thousands of people. Situated between University Hospital Waterford and Solas Cancer Support Center, the HQ is beautifully located between two places which could possibly benefit from it the most. They plan on growing a forest pathway between Solas center and the HQ to offer a sense of tranquility to the patient and a cleansing organic meal in the cafe – how wonderful.
The facilities at Grow HQ are state of the art and they hope to offer this very grounded space to the public with efforts of continuously sharing their love for growing your own food. As you enter the building you are graced with a lovely little shop, offering a range of seeds, growing tools, kitchenware and cookbooks. To the left is their award winning cafe that is bright and airy, looking out onto their soon to be kitchen garden. With a mother nature feel to it, grounded and warmingly woody, you feel a sense of welcome instantly. With vegetables taking center stage, they serve ‘nutritious, delicious, seasonal food’. They also have pretty tasty backing singers of free range local meats and fish! ‘Mostly the distance from plot to plate is about 115 steps – Lucy and the garden team grow it, JB and kitchen team cook it, and our lovely customers eat it’, now doesn’t that sound delish?
With a fully equipped kitchen training room to offer cookery demonstrations on topics such as fermenting, seasonal eating and vegan cooking along with a cosy upstairs room for yoga and mindfulness, they offer a wide spectrum of mind and overall food and health classes. They are in the process of creating multiple gardens – a stone-walled kitchen garden where they hope to produce most of the vegetables and salads for the cafe, a heritage garden, an orchard with edible trees from Seed Savers in Co. Clare, an edible boundary and a foraging trail. Their produce at present is grown on the impressive production garden at the south end of the HQ and in another one acre garden with two polytunnels just up the road in Carriganore.
Their website is an excellent resource for people starting out and for those who feel that bit more veg-sassy. From their ‘veg directory’ to ‘video tutorials’, ‘recipes’ and weekly ‘articles’, there is nothing stopping anyone from getting their hands dirty and stuck into growing their own vegetables… To show you just how easy it can be they have dedicated a 6×4 plot of land, the rough size of an average suburban garden right in front of the HQ’s entrance. They are creating a real life example of how even the smallest of gardens can produce enough food to feed a family. A framework to build on, disallowing any excuses for not starting your grow your own food journey today!
‘From a one man show to twenty nine full time employees between GIY and Grow HQ’ Michael Kelly has built something of an empire. How Trevor Sargent, author of ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ and previous long term Green Party leader describes GIY is nothing less than brilliant – it’s a ‘can-do organisation that leaves all the others behind because it brings people together, it harnesses enthusiasm and it inspires people to go and do more so it’s a win win every way’. It’s such an empowering movement that has touched the hearts of the world and given them confidence to try and grow some of their own food.
Grow It Yourself Whether you need some advice or encouragement, their beautiful website is there to aid you along the way and if you are anywhere in the vicinity, I would highly urge a trip to GIY HQ. JJ Kavanagh & Sons buses pass here daily so hop on and take a trip to the veggiest place in Ireland!