Northern Ireland

More Northern Ireland people growing their own food

Nigel McKinney's vegetable plot
Image caption Nigel McKinney transformed a bit of rough ground into a vegetable plot

As the price of food continues to rise, people are shopping around for bargains.

Some are forced to go to food banks. Others, though, are growing their own.

Nigel McKinney is one of them. Back in April he transformed a piece of rough ground at the back of his house outside Kilcoo, County Down, into a fruit and vegetable garden.

There are now 10 raised beds full of produce. He wouldn't claim to be an expert, but he is delighted with what he has grown so far.

"We have rhubarb, chard, sprouts, runner beans, sweet corn, onions, parsley and celery," said Nigel.

"I like food and you can't eat anything else.

"I have always tried to grow little bits of salad and when you have a bit of space as we have here, it seems a real pity not to put it to productive use.

"Out in the garden you are working, it clears the head and you get to enjoy the fruits of it."

Nigel is a member of the Grow It Yourself organisation, which was founded in Waterford by Michael Kelly in 2009. There are now over 30,000 people involved and over 100 GIY groups across Ireland.

Nigel organised a public meeting in Newcastle with a view to setting up a group for south Down. More than two dozen people turned up eager to listen and learn. The guest speaker was GIY Ulster Champion Michael McEvoy.

"There is at least one group in every county in Ireland, north and south," he said.

"People come together on a monthly or seasonally or online to share information, learn from each other or support each other."

To mark the winter solstice, established GIYers, as they are called, from Belfast and north Down gathered on a farm outside Bangor.

Heather Boyd belongs to the Lisburn group. She has been growing her own food in back garden for years.

"It's great fun and there's nothing beats the pleasure of seeing something come on from seed and then going out and actually picking it and cooking it," she said.

"I've grown potatoes and onions, sweet corn, courgettes, lettuce, salad and tomatoes."

"It can be very difficult. You will have success and failures, but it is very rewarding and it makes you appreciate the food and the effort that goes into it."

For Noelle Robinson from the Bangor GIY group, it is more than just the food.

Image caption Among the vegetables grown by Nigel are sprouts for Christmas

"Everybody enjoys the company. They have common interests. They enjoy discussing growing things, swopping ideas and swopping seeds as well," she said.

The consensus at the gathering is GIY groups bring people in a way that they would never meet each other anywhere else.

Growing your own food may not save you a trip to the supermarket but it could help to cut costs.

It might involve some hard work however there will be free food at the end of it.