My name is Marie, I come from the west of Ireland. I grew up on a little farm on the side of a mountain. We always grew our own vegetables in large plots in a field near the house. I have four brothers and we all had to help grow, weed and harvest the vegetables every year. This is where my love of food and growing food started.
I remember when the peas would have to be picked and we would all gather in our kitchen, with any neighbours who would like to join in, and we would all depod the peas and my mother would blanch them and freeze them straight away. Any of them that hadn’t been eaten raw that was! The same would have to be done with carrots and turnips. Hard work but we enjoyed it. We would have lots of cabbage also and many potatoes of different types which would depend on the time of year. We would have fruits as well, raspberries, strawberries, apples, rhubarb, gooseberries and bilberries which we would pick in the wild and eat fresh or make jams and preserves.
From that time onwards I would always grow as much food as I could for myself and later on for my children. Sometimes with varying degrees of success but I would have learned from my parents much of the experience that I needed, but not all because I would try to grow a lot of vegetables that my parents wouldn’t have. My children would also help out in the garden as I did so the skills and experience can be passed on. They would not yet grow as much as I do but they are still young and my hope would be that when they have their own place and families that it is then the information handed down will come in to play. I think we are in danger of losing the skills and experiences of generations before us if we don’t continue this practice of handing down information.
I have had many jobs down through the years but now I have begun a new chapter in my life by getting a job at East Clare Community Co-op near my home in Ireland. I am so pleased to be working here because they have gone back to the old ways of growing your own food for consumption as near to source as possible. Here they grow vegetables and herbs both outside and in tunnels which they use in the Vegetarian Café attached. The food is beautiful, of course, because it is so fresh. I am still learning so much about food, growing, harvesting and now I eat vegetarian food most of the time and I feel so much better for it. I have also started a horticulture course once a week,, I guess you are never finished learning..
My job at the Co-op has led me to get involved with The Future of Food. This initiative, which is supported by the EU, is a two year programme exploring sustainable food. It has been the most amazing experience for me and I am learning so much. The programme is being run by five co-ordinators from Hungary, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Holland. These people have a definite common belief in the future of food on our planet and they want to make a difference in the world.
These few passionate people started making a small difference two years ago and now a small group of people are making a big difference to future of food awareness. They are to be commended hugely for their dedication and hard work in helping grow awareness that our planet is green and must be sustainable for us to survive.
I must admit that I have made a reconnection with nature and food and all that is important that surrounds us since I met these people. I find myself going back to my childhood experiences. We all know the facts; they are in the media and reminders around us all the time. We know that the bees are in trouble if we don’t do something but who is doing something about it. We know that intensive production of crops is not sustainable. It is up to all of us to do our bit to help out even if it is only to recycle properly. Reuse old materials. We should not just make a difference, we should be the difference. We have the information in our heads but we need to listen to it more and act on it.
One person I met who lives in a large city has started a community garden in her own neighbourhood, which is a Ghetto. They started the garden in a small unused plot and it is used by the surrounding people for their own use only. They do not sell anything they grow, it is for their own use but only the people who work in the garden may take food from the garden. This is the type of initiative we need to be taking. It is one of many such wonderful projects emerging in Cities around the world. There can be free food made available to everyone. Think about it! Why not plant fruit trees which can be accessed by anyone. Imagine a homeless person in a city, or anywhere, walking up to a tree and picking an apple to eat beside a person who is well off. Why not? Make people aware of the wild berries, plants and herbs that grow in our hedgerows around us every day. There are so many edible plants that we walk by every day and we don’t even know about it. It is all about awareness and the passing on of information. Something to think about!!
My journey with Future of Food has only begun and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. I am very excited to be going home with my bellyful of information, my new outlook, enthusiasm and the importance of teaching and passing on what I know and what I am learning. If we could all grow half of what we eat imagine the impact it would have on the planet and your pocket as well as your well-being. How lucky am I to be able to make a difference to the world. You can do it too!