Growing your own fruits and vegetables can seem utterly overwhelming. Our grandparents did it, so why can’t we? It’s actually much simpler than it sounds. All you need is a little time, a water source and a few square feet of the great outdoors. Grow It Yourself Ireland is a global movement of people who grow their own food. This not-for-profit social enterprise is dedicated to supporting people to grow some of their own food at home, school, at work or in the community.
The seed of GIY was planted by 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 idea of GIY was born. From humble beginnings, this year GIY will support over 150,000 growers and 5,000 community food groups and projects across Ireland, the UK and beyond. In 2017, they put down roots in Waterford, and opened GROW HQ as the home of the movement – a place for people to come and learn to grow, cook and of course, to eat home-grown food.
Applegreen were approached by GIY to become one of the visionary companies to invest in GROW HQ, GIY’s €1.4m national Food Education Centre. We were so excited to get involved as we feel that we are investing in the health of our employees and customers alike. Our support has helped them to open a grow school, cookery school, café, shop and training gardens. The urban location creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity to start a new conversation about food and health. With healthy eating being such a big focus in our stores through our Eat Smart range, we are always looking for ways to improve on our knowledge of nutrition and to introduce more local and healthy ingredients into our recipes.
50 of our foodiest staff from stores nationwide and Head Office were invited to GROW HQ to experience this revolutionary centre first hand. We arrived decked out in wellies and raincoats, ready to dig in. The morning consisted of a tour around the working farm to learn all about cultivating and harvesting organic food. As well as improving our health, gardening helps the planet in many ways by reducing your environmental impact. If you grow your food organically, without pesticides and herbicides, you are reducing air and water pollution. It is also a great form of outdoor exercise. You could even encourage the kids to get involved too. It also a great way to de-stress and get some fresh air and sunshine, albeit somewhat optimistic in this country!
After working up an appetite pickaxing, sowing and planting, we were treated to a delicious seasonal buffet for lunch with all produce picked from the farm or locally sourced. The abundant spread included falafels, quiches, salads and breads. The vitamin content of this food were at their highest levels as we enjoyed them straight from the garden. Talk about fresh! Comparing the flavour of food when it travels from the farm to your table is incomparable. If it tastes better, you’ll be more likely to eat the healthy produce that you know your body needs. We always try and have this ethos with our food in our stores as well.
After lunch, we were treated to a talk by GROW HQ’s resident personality Juicy Jim on sprouting, living foods and smoothies. Raw foods and juicing are more than just a trend or a supermodels diet. They are consumed as a means to detox, to energize, to hydrate, to lose weight and even aid digestion. They are also known to be a great source of essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Some of these food stuffs can contain every nutrient that the body needs to stay alive. While it may be a somewhat idealist aim to live wholly sustainably, this talk was fascinating.
We were then moved to the demo room where we were introduced to Head Chef JB who showed us how to prepare quick and easy seasonal meals. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you and your family can do to stay healthy and this cookery lesson after lunch showed us just how simple it is. The knifes came out and there was some good humoured rivalry between teams! Excellent team building and great fun was had by all, not to mention some fabulous food to taste.
Even if you don’t have big garden – or any garden for that matter – you can still grow food. The GIYers kindly gifted one of our store managers a container to grow on his apartment balcony! You could even grow an indoor herb garden on a windowsill. You’ll be amazed at the abundance of produce that can grow out of one pot. Why not give it a shot, you’ll save money, reduce food waste, help the environment, help your health and build a sense of pride in this new, fun hobby. Thank you GIY for inspiring us to break ground in our own back gardens!