What we are; GIY is a global movement of people who grow some of their own food.
What we do; We are a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to supporting people to grow some of their own food at home, school, work or in the community.
Why do we do it; The food chain increasingly has less and less to do with great food and nutrition, and more to do with global trade and profit. It is having a devastating effect on our health and the health of the planet we share. Though we are in many ways increasingly obsessed with food, we have never been more disconnected from it. There is no better way to understand and re-connect meaningfully with your food than by growing some of it yourself. Food growing is the ultimate food masterclass that leads to food empathy and is a lever to a healthier, happier and more sustainable world. GIYers are like white blood cells on a broken food system - a positive, disruptive force for change. Cheesy as it sounds, we believe we're changing the world - one GIYer at a time.
The seed of GIY was planted with founder Michael Kelly in Waterford in 2008. Inspiration hit Michael while food shopping when he realised how far some produce had travelled to arrive on the supermarket aisles where it was being sold as “fresh”. (The now infamous “Garlic Story”; read it here if you haven’t had the dubious pleasure yet).
To start with, Michael grew some garlic at home. Badly. To remedy his woeful lack of knowledge he searched for a local food growing group but could unearth only plant and flower groups. Not interested in growing anything he couldn’t eat he decided to establish his own group for dedicated food growers - and so, the idea of GIY was born. From there the idea spread virally, planting a network of community food growing groups, with a central organisation supporting them all with campaigns, resources and events. (Have we dragged out the plant metaphor a bit? We might stop now.) From these humble beginnings, this year GIY will support over 540,000 growers and 5,000 community food groups and projects across Ireland, the UK and beyond. And we're not finished there. With your help (and the help of some of our amazing partners like innocent and Cully & Sully), we want to create a network of 1 million GIYers around the world… No pressure then.
As the movement spreads out around the world, we're also putting down roots in Waterford, where it all began - this year, we will open GROW HQ as the home of the movement, the mothership so to speak - a place for people to come and learn to grow, cook and of course to eat home-grown food. It will be a hyper-local, hyper-authentic embodiment of all things GIY - and probably, just hyper in general.
In the coming decades GIY will continue to grow internationally using the template of what we have achieved in Ireland to inspire food empathy globally, and most importantly spread the message of the joy of vegetable-based puns. Growing food is not about gardening. It's not about Latin names for plants. It's about producing some of the most nutritious, tastiest home-grown grub. It's about reconnecting with real food grown in the living soil.
Come join us
This is told at least once a day down GIY way. If it hasn’t been told yet today, and you hear Michael clear his throat, run. When we hear the start of this story we all get really busy, out in the garden, digging a trench, to hide in. Nonetheless this is our origin story whether we’re sick of it or not and everyone has to hear it. So we’ll tell you once and hopefully, like chicken pox, you’ll be immune for life. But like chicken pox, there’s no guarantee.
This is Michael’s version of a Road to Damascus conversion, his eureka moment, his apple falling from the tree.
It takes place in a supermarket, an unlikely location for an epiphany I grant you, but bear with us…
Once upon a time there was a pale, chubby IT salesman called Michael, or Mick, but never Mike. One day Mick was food shopping for the family. Mick likes garlic, so Mick decided to buy some garlic. Good man Mick. But, wait a minute, what’s this?! On a 90cent garlic bulb the sticker read “product of China”. Now Mick has nothing against the Chinese per se. But China is a good 5,000 miles away from Ireland. And garlic is not exactly fussy. It’s not like a panda, it doesn’t need a specific temperature and nutrition and mood music and all that malarkey. So why the hell did someone decide to treat this garlic to the trip of a lifetime for 90cent a bulb?
That was the moment, the one on which Mick’s entire life pivoted. Not content to remain a pale, chubby, foreign-garlic-buying IT salesman any longer he sallied forth from that mid-priced supermarket to grow his own damn garlic! And thus began the GIY story….