Allotment style Food grower from Cobh, Co Cork wins ‘2020 Energia Get Ireland Growing’ grand prize

15 September 2020
By Tom Collins
tom@TheCork.ie

Pictured is Louise O’ Connor, who runs a not-forprofit ‘Patch Na bPáistí in County Cork, has emerged from thousands of participants across Ireland to win the 2020 Get Ireland Growing grand prize worth €5,000 from Energia and GIY.

The preschool professional believes in the outdoor classroom, so she transformed her garden into a communal allotment several years ago.  She calls it “Patch na bPaisti” (the Children’s Patch – of ground) and it is a popular weekend activity for many young children.

Cobh based Louise O’Connor has emerged from thousands of participants across Ireland to win the 2020 Get Ireland Growing grand prize worth €5,000 from Energia and GIY.

Louise encourages and teaches children how to grow vegetables, fruit, trees, flowers and seed saving at a weekly Saturday morning workshop which she has been running for the last two years. During lockdown Louise put her efforts towards ‘Gardening Care Packs’ working with her community to grow and deliver veg packs to those who were cocooning.

The prize fund and equipment, including a brand new polytunnel from The Polytunnel Company, will now help Louise to create a community garden at her home in a Cobh estate and help to undo the recent damage that her garden suffered during Storm Ellen.

She says with this backing from Energia Get Ireland Growing she has her eyes set on bigger and better things ahead, “We do most of our work from my home garden and the surrounding wooded area by our estate. We started off small but it keeps on growing and I truly do see a great future here with more and more people getting involved. This prize is an amazing chance to do more and a promise to a better 2021 for my community.”

 

Louise was presented with her prize this week including her brand new polytunnel. GIY Director and Co-Presenter of RTE’s GROW COOK EAT Karen O’Donohoe was present for the handover of the prize: “We had an incredible range of entries for this prize, but Louise’s story stood out for the entrepreneurial spirit of everything she’s doing. To see someone turning their home into a hub for community food growing is truly inspirational, and we’re delighted to be able to help her realise more of her vision.”

Energia’s Sponsorship Manager, Amy O’Shaughnessy, reflected on the impact of the campaign this year, which kicked off in May and has distributed €60,000 worth of food growing resources since then.

“The response to this year’s campaign has been phenomenal. We’ve seen tens of thousands of people participating across all 32 counties, which shows that Irish people are increasingly taking steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. At Energia, we’re committed to helping make this happen, by supplying Irish homes and businesses with 100% green energy and smart technologies as well as through our Energia Get Ireland Growing initiative..”

Pictured is Louise O’ Connor, who runs a not-forprofit ‘Patch Na bPáistí in County Cork, has emerged from thousands of participants across Ireland to win the 2020 Get Ireland Growing grand prize worth €5,000 from Energia and GIY. Louise was presented with her prize by Alan Mulcahy from Energia and Karen O’Donohoe from GIY.

GIY CEO Mick Kelly encouraged all Get Ireland Growing participants, and everyone else who started growing food for the first time during lockdown, to keep up the good work despite the change of season.

“September is the month where growing becomes a way of life. The bumper harvests leave stripped plants to become compost for next year’s growing and the enthusiasm to sow more seeds for homegrown food in the winter. The last few months have seen a surge in interest in food growing and our mission at GIY is to help make this stick. Ireland could quickly return to being a nation of food growers, which would have a profound impact on our health and well-being.”

Runners up (non Cork!)

This is certainly the intention of the 2020 Energia Get Ireland Growing runner-up, Rebecca Ni Chriochain of Cleas community group on Inis Oirr who commented, “In the past, islanders grew more vegetables with no need to import any from the mainland. Who knows, maybe we will be able to return to that way of life again soon!”

Earlier this year, Cleas worked with ten residents of Inis Oírr island to set up an organic community garden growing a wide variety of vegetables including potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, peas, parsnips, carrots, onions, lettuce, spinach, beetroot and even quinoa and wildflowers creating an even greater sense of community and aiming for more self-sufficiency. Cleas community group have been awarded €1,000 to develop their community garden further.

Last years grand prize winner (non Cork!)

Last year’s winner, Pat Pender of the Zero Waste Community Garden in Rathcoffey in County Kildare echoed these sentiments and offered some advice to the 2020 winners, “Our garden was an absolute oasis during the lockdown. A number of people who used to grow were back at it, keen to make the most of the extra time available. For anyone starting a community garden, let people know what you’re doing, welcome members from outside the parish and be open to donations – one person’s waste is our treasure.”

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