Michael Kelly is a freelance writer, bestselling author, broadcaster and social entrepreneur, an informed and impassioned speaker on food issues, self-sufficiency, sustainability and growing your own. He founded the organisation "GIY (Grow it Yourself)" in 2008, a not-for-profit organisation (registered charity CHY 18920) which aims to inspire people to grow their own food and give them the skills they need to do so successfully. Michael and his wife have been growing their own food for about five years and went in search of a local food growers group for them to join so that they could learn 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.
Michael set up the first GIY group in Waterford, over 100 people showed up at the first meeting of GIY Waterford and the group continues to meets monthly in the city. Not long afterwards other GIY groups were formed in neighbouring towns. Michael and Dave Curran spent nearly two years driving around Ireland in a battered old GIY-mobile, starting GIY groups in towns from Navan to Nenagh, Belfast to Bantry, Limerick to Lucan. Things have got a little more sophisticated since, but the ethos of GIY remains the same - we're all about bringing people together so that they can grow their own food more successfully. So an idea that started local, has gone regional, then national and now international – GIY has recently launched in Australia and will launch in the UK in 2013.
Michael worked for ten years in the I.T. industry in Dublin but now lives the good life in Dunmore East, Co. Waterford with his wife, children and an ever-expanding coterie of farm animals.
Where do you GIY?
in my little patch of GIY heaven in the garden in Dunmore East, with a fenced veg patch, polytunnel and lean-to potting shed.
Why do you GIY?
well, there's a garlic story I could tell here, but most people have heard that by now. Suffice to say that I grow my own because it keeps me sane, healthy and connected to the earth. It's part of me now, and I can't seem to stop - please help!
What do you grow?
I am pretty unadventurous - sticking to what I can grow well, and like to eat. So, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, beetroot, kohlrabi, cabbage, calabrese, sprouting broccoli, artichoke, carrots, parsnips, fennel, salad leaves, herbs and more.
Your favourite veg to eat / grow
beetroot - brilliant for you, easy to grow, tasty, stores well, grow a lot in a small space. What's not to love?
Your least favourite veg to eat /grow
I don't dislike growing any veg. I hate to eat cauliflower on the other hand so I guess that's my bête noire. I have also been spectacularly unsuccessful at growing kale over the years which is an endless source of disappointment for me. This year.....
Your favourite GIYing moment each year (and why)
when I'm finished with all the hard work in December and can kick back and relax. Ah no, it's probably the first fresh, ripe Sungold tomato, eaten there and then, warm, in the polytunnel, usually in July.. A little sweet, taste-bomb in the mouth. Could also be the first seed sowing of the year, or the first rummage for spuds. Out in the potting shed, pottering, when the hour goes forward and the evenings get long. Watering just after dawn before work.. There are so many, I can't pick one.
Your most useful gardening tool (and why)
oscillating hoe - makes light work of weeding. The ridging hoe is good for earthing up spuds. Hoes are a revelation in general.
What do you know now about GIYing that you didn’t know last year?
puddling in leeks is a waste of time. Just plant em out as normal.
My finest hour in the veg patch was when…
those first two weeks after constructing a rabbit proof barrier around the veg patch (picket fence and chicken wire under the ground) when the place was actually free of rabbits. Then they found a weakness and normal service resumed.
Which Good Life cast member are you? Tom, Barbara, Jerry or Margot?
Definitely Tom. Corporate drop out. Ridiculous plans, ridiculous clothes while GIYing, endlessly optimistic that all will work out well. Oh, and married to a gorgeous sexy woman of course..