‘Meitheal’ is an Irish word which means something like what today we’d call ‘community spirit’ or simply, the idea of coming together to help each other. It originates in rural Ireland where farming communities would traditionally come together at busy times of the year to work together and support each other.
One of the groups that I’ve been in contact with while preparing for my cycle around Ireland and the community garden visits is GIY (Grow it Yourself). GIY was set up by Mick Kelly and a group of food growers in Waterford. The idea behind it is to bring people in a community who are already growing food and people interested in starting to grow-their-own together to share ideas, resources and to help each other. This is a clip from a recent RTE TV program on GIY and neo-Meitheals.
With money being scarce and people being increasingly concerned about the quality of the food they eat, where it comes from and how it’s grown, GIY seems to have hit a nerve. Aware that food growing can seem quite intimidating at first, GIY groups are beginning to provide the supports necessary to encourage novices and to fill the knowledge and skills gap that was preventing many people from growing it themselves! Groups have been set up all over the country and it has very quickly become a national success story.
The generation of community spirit underlying the Meitheal groups of course has potential way beyond the growing of food. And this wasn’t lost on the keynote speaker at GIY’s annual conference held a few weeks ago in Dublin. President Mary Mc Aleese spoke about the ‘lost generation’ that has lost a connection with the land and with nature and expressed her support for the GIY groups and their potential to reconnect people both to the land and to each other. She also got some tips for her own garden, she’s a big GIYer apparantly!
Other speakers on the day were Diarmuid Martin and Duncan Stewart both patrons of GIY. The high profile supporters and success of the GIY movement are tribute to a renewed engagement with our food and where it comes from.
If you’re interested in starting up a GIY group in your area or finding out if one already exists, their website is: http://www.giyireland.com/home.php
Well done guys, thanks for the support and hope to meet some of you during my sponsored cycle!