Tag Archives: GIY

Day Two: #AFairLand Alive and Kicking at IMMA

Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.

But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.

Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.

freshly-harvested-courgettes

With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.

What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.

crackers-with-pickle

For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.

The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.

So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.

a-fair-land-food-vendors

But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.

Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.

What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.

With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.

carrots-getting-read-for-roasting
Carrots and garlic ready for roasting!

Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!

Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.

Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.

Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.

serving-food-and-prep

Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.

Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.

Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!

For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.

I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.

Word of Mouth: Inspiration aplenty at the Waterford Harvest Festival

A last minute notion struck my Mam and I to head down to Waterford for the weekend for their annual Harvest Festival, that was in conjunction with Grow it Yourself (GIY) International.

A celebration of food heritage and culture aimed to suit all tastes, the harvest festival has been around since pagan times acting as a way for the community to celebrate the fruits of their labours.

Pairing up with GIY to form GROWfest, the organic and gardening aspect of the festival, it was described as a weekend that would educate “people in the appreciation of good, clean, fair food, showcasing all the gastronomic delights the region has to offer”. A promising statement indeed!

Taking about two hours on the train, I arrived down to the city of Vikings to rain that poured from the heavens and soaked everything in sight. I was so glad to hitch a lift to the hotel off the Mammy!

For the weekend that was, we were booked into the Waterford Marina Hotel tucked away from the bustle of the centre overlooking the River Suir. Nestling into a twin-bedded room that was quiet and clean, we soon freshened up, off-loaded our bags and set sail in search of food.

On recommendation of the hotel receptionist and feeling a bit on the lazy side, we strolled down to the local Thai restaurant Pa Pa where we ordered the perfect comfort food: curry (more on that soon!)


Up early for breakfast and looking forward to the day ahead, we headed down to the hotel restaurant which had a mix of continental and hot food on offer.


Now I’m a sucker for the Irish fry so you can guess what I got.

Though overall a good filler for the morning, I definitely wished that a bit more care went into their eggs. The scrambled completely lacked flavour and were watery, and plastic comes to mind with the fried one. A real shame for such a great food.

Onto the festival itself, and we headed off to the GROWfest, which had a particular focus on growing your own food, cooking it, looking after it and general gardening advice.


Just €10 for the each event in the tent and €47.50 for a weekend pass, we opted to pay per event and headed into where Ella McSweeney was speaking to Joanna Blythman.

For those who don’t know, Joanna is an award-winning investigative food journalist from Scotland who has covered everything from intensive pineapple production to the causes of obesity.

She broadcasts and writes frequently on the “secret food industry” that we’re expected to trust, and it was such a pleasure to hear her share her findings.

Among all of the fascinating things she talked about, one of the biggest things that struck me was when she was talking about “clean” labels and what actually goes into commercial products.

Ella had brought in an unnamed carrot cake that she had bought from a shop, and well, let’s just say a basic carrot cake really only needs to contain six ingredients: sugar, oil, flour, egg, a raising agent and carrots.

Have a listen to this snippet (which by the way isn’t even the start of the list!):

Despite some minor sound issues, Ella McSweeney did a great job and kept the ball rolling!

With a bit of time on our hands to explore the festival in its entirety, Mam and I sauntered around and waded through the crowds.


From sheep shearing and food stalls, to a real outdoor flower bed and historic re-enactments – one of the things that really gets you at the Harvest Festival is actually how family-friendly it is. One honey producer Déise, actually brought in bees and explained the process to curious children and adults alike.

  



Popping into the tent again for a panel discussion on “hospital food: it’s enough to make you sick”, we got to hear a variety of opinions from experts in the field.

The biggest issue that came up in the discussion was procurement, with the emphasis that hospital food should be of a standard that would speed up and aid recovery, rather than making us feel worse.

Would you believe that a survey of hospital patients in Ireland found 80-85% satisfaction with the quality of food? I was stunned!

Topping off the night and what could possibly be described as my favourite event from the weekend, was the GIY dinner in Momo Restaurant. Treated to fantastic meal using local, fresh produce (with even a few bits and bobs grown in the GIY HQ), it was a dinner that sparked excitement and exhilarated the palate.


With things like cucumber beer, stuffed savoy cabbage, beetroot ice cream and a salad with fresh strawberries, it truly was a feast at €40 a head.


  
Kicking off our Sunday, while Mam zipped off to the GROWtent, I headed to see Johann and Tom Doorley cook up fresh food in the GROWHQ Kitchen.

With a splash of delightful humour we were shown how to make some great but simple dishes like braised lettuce and peas and fried courgettes in garlic and vinegar. You can definitely tell that they have fun when they’re cooking!


Seeing Holistic grower and horticulturist Fiann Ó Nualláin in action was to be our final event of the weekend, and he shared with us just a snippet of his wealth of knowledge with regards to healing potential of plants (unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the full talk).

Slipping out of the tent and nabbing a falafel roll from the Lebanese food stall, I dashed off to grab my train back to the Big Smoke.

I was surprisingly restrained with the bits and bobs I brought home, the only two things that I forked out on was an exquisite bottle of heather-infused vinegar (€10) from Wild Wood and a wedge of honey comb (€6) from Déise.


All in all, the festival is definitely something that’s worth heading to and I’ll be keeping a note of it in my diary for next year. Apart from a few hiccups, it really is a jam-packed food-fuelled weekend with people that inspire you to take up a shovel and grow it yourself.

Tips for those thinking of heading next year:

  • If it’s on, book a seat at the GIY dinner. It’s fabulous – no more words needed.
  • Bring some toilet tissue when you’re roaming the festival – though there are portaloos, the tissue disappears quite quickly.
  • Might sound obvious, but definitely carry a small umbrella around with you – the chance of rain is always very high.
  • For the producers’ sake, try and have small change if you can and small notes. It can be pretty tough to deal with €50 notes on a stand!
  • The Waterford Marina Hotel is a nice hotel to book into if you’re looking for somewhere that’s quiet – I was only able to hear the bare murmur of music from the bar from where our room was. As I said, the breakfast offerings aren’t perfect but I found their staff to very, very pleasant and accommodating when it came to leaving our car in the carpark (which is very secure) for a few hours after checkout.

VIDEO: Be part of it – learn about GIY’s exciting new Grow headquarters

For me, there’s something incredibly satisfying about plunging your hands into the soil and creating a space to grow your own. From farm to table, there are so many people out there that get a kick out of seeing something grow up from the ground.

Global movement Grow it Yourself aka GIY, is planning to head up a HQ in Waterford; where an all-new hub for planting, growing and learning will be, as well as a place to learn how to cook with the freshest of ingredients.

They’re currently looking for support on Fundit, and if there’s anything I’d recommend getting behind, it’s this.

For those who are not too familiar with the concept, GIY is a movement that aims to encourage people across the globe to make the most out of the land around them – to take to the earth and grow.

“When people grow their own, they gain a deeper understanding of food called ‘food empathy’ which acts as a lever to a healthier lifestyle”, they note and I’d tend to agree – there’s something rich about plucking fresh food from your own plot.

Currently, there are 50,000 people involved in this initiative online and in the community.

Below, founder Michael Kelly talks about the exciting new plans for the new GROW HQ.

Learn more about the GIY global movement on their website here.

(Image via GIY International on Facebook)