Why we’re giving away 50,000 seed kits

The Grow It Forward campaign is a great way to commune with nature during lockdown, says Karen O’Donohoe, of Ladysbridge, Cork, who is GIY’s Director of Development
Why we’re giving away 50,000 seed kits

ALL ABOARD: The GIY Grow It Forward campaign is ideal for all ages. Picture: Patrick Browne

IF there’s one thing that beats the joy of getting lovely stuff for free, it’s the ‘feel- good’ sensation from doing a random act of kindness.

And that’s the very essence of the Grow It Forward campaign by the Grow It Yourself (GIY) organisation.

In partnership with Healthy Ireland and Libraries Ireland, we’re giving away 50,000 free kits and encouraging people of all ages and growing abilities to feel good by sharing their food growing in any way they choose —posting surplus seeds to a friend, leaving seedlings and plants outside a door for passers-by, or sharing produce from the harvest with family and neighbours.

In a nutshell: Get Free Seeds, Do Good Deeds!

It’s been an exceptionally difficult year for everyone, and I know I’m not alone in feeling head-, heart- and soul-wrecked from the necessary restrictions and lifestyle changes brought about by the global pandemic.

I have a lot to be grateful for and am acutely aware that I have it far easier than so many others, but goodness I really miss my friends. I miss my brother and sister who live in the States and can’t come home with their families to play on the beach with mine, or to hug our Mom who is receiving chemotherapy treatment. I miss the freedom of going wherever I want, whenever I want — and I don’t mean big trips abroad, I mean to my friend’s house for a BBQ. I don’t miss stuff; I miss people.

So instead, I try to do good stuff for people.

As much as Covid-19 has taken from us — with people experiencing loss in different and difficult ways — it has also given us, albeit in a bittersweet way, the opportunity to stop and re-evaluate how we want to live and how we want to be.

Lockdown restrictions have given us time to explore what’s on our doorstep and find a new appreciation for simple tasks and activities, such as growing our own food, that pre-pandemic we were often too busy to actually stop and spend time doing.

At GIY, we’ve seen first-hand how the pandemic and new way of living has inspired a record number of people to grow food.

As we enter peak growing season, we want to continue the incredible momentum of food growing and enable half a million people across Ireland to enjoy all the goodness that we know comes from growing, cooking and eating good food at home. Cue Grow It Forward. A major part of Healthy Ireland’s Keep Well programme — the Government’s call-to-action campaign launched at the end of 2020 for living with COVID-19.

We’re very proud to lead on the Eat Well pillar and delighted that food growing is part of a Government-led public health initiative.

We recognise the privilege it is to have such a platform to reach so many people with our message, that growing food helps develop a better connection with food in general and positively impacts our physical and mental wellbeing.

We’re beyond delighted to be part of Ireland’s resilience and recovery plan by inspiring and supporting people to grow some of their own food, because food growing is for life, not just for lockdown. And it is, by its very nature, optimistic and future-focussed.

As the days brighten and signs of spring are everywhere, we can start to look ahead to life returning to a semblance of normality. And there’s no better sign of hope and optimism than witnessing the process of a seed turning into a seedling and, in time, healthy, nutritious food to share with friends and family.

We may not be able to bottle the truly joyful feeling of seeing a seed germinating or harvesting food you’ve grown yourself, but Grow it Forward is as close as we can get.

This hugely ambitious but very simple initiative captures all that’s good about growing food and encourages people to share that feeling as far and wide as possible at a time when we need it most.

Social isolation has certainly been one of the hardest parts of the past year. Not physically seeing, holding and hugging people is at times unbearable, and spending an inordinate amount of time connecting via digital platforms has been a huge adjustment and, at times, inadequate alternative. Grow It Forward is not only designed to help the nation eat well by inspiring and supporting people to grow some of their own food at home, but also an opportunity to safely connect with others. Think of sharing seeds, seedlings, plants and produce as giving someone a green hug!

We encourage everyone to take part in Grow It Forward regardless of your experience in growing or the space you have to grow. All you need to do to claim a free Grow it Forward pack is visit giy.ie/growitforward or contact your local library, as all 330 branches nationwide are helping to drive the effort.

Each food growing pack includes seeds for beetroot, carrots, salad leaves, peas and tomatoes, a guide to help grow them and a postcard and gift tags to help share them. Those who sign up will also receive regular emails with growing support, video clips and ideas for how to ‘grow it forward’ in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

With 50,000 Grow it Forward participants sharing their growing experience with nine others, we’ll be well on the way to helping half a million people to grow, cook and eat their own food. Now that’s certainly something to feel good about.

Register for a Grow it Forward pack while supplies last at www.giy.ie/growitforward or contact your local library.

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