More than 250 families in Derry and Strabane are rolling up their sleeves and getting ready to embark on the journey towards self-sustainability thanks to a new environmental project encouraging more people to grow their own produce.
The ‘I Can Grow’ Project, led by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and delivered in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, The Conversation Volunteers and University College Cork, was launched in December 2020, sparking an overwhelming response from families across Derry and Strabane, generating hundreds of expressions of interest.
Now the participating families will take the first steps towards growing their own food, with equipment provided and some expert mentoring from the council’s newly appointed horticulturalist and a team of conservation volunteers, that will run over two growing seasons.
Shauna Kelpie, Acorn Fund Development Officer at the Community Foundation, said: “We want this project to start a wider conversation around the sustainability of our food and educate local people about where our food comes from, how it’s grown and how its carbon footprint contributes to climate change.
“We originally opened the project to accommodate 100 families.
“The fact that we have now over 250 families signed up highlights the demand for projects like this, the willingness of individuals to ignite change, making those steps to become more sustainable and work towards tackling climate change.
“Not only does growing your own food help the climate, but there are also lots of health benefits too.
“Taking time to sow seeds, nurture and eat fruit and vegetables is so good for our mental and physical wellbeing.”
Council mayor Brian Tierney said he was delighted to see the level of interest in the scheme and the wide variety of participants who have signed up.
“The ‘I Can Grow’ project has generated a huge amount of interest since it was launched,’ he said.
“It is fantastic to see that it’s appealed not just to local families, but to young people with a passion for the environment, people living on their own who really need a project during these difficult times, and older people who want to pass on their gardening knowledge to their grandchildren.
“It’s a great way to instil the idea of self-sustainability and show how easy it is to grow healthy, delicious food with just a little bit of effort.
“It’s also the perfect activity to get children outside and to encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables which they have helped to produce.
“With rising food costs and a reduction in stock coming here due to Brexit, as well as people spending more time at home, local people are definitely thinking about how to live more self-sufficiently and sustainably.
“Well done to all the partners involved in this project and good luck to all the local growers!”
Kate Beggs, Director of The National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland, said: “We’re delighted by the amazing response from local families, which shows that there is real interest in learning about food, food choices and how these affect the environment.
“The ‘I Can Grow’ Project was the first in Northern Ireland to receive funding from our 10-year £100 million Climate Action Fund, set up to help communities throughout the UK reduce their carbon footprint. It’s inspiring to see so many families becoming involved in the ‘I Can Grow’ initiative, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.
David Montgomery, of The Conservation Volunteers, said: “The response to this project is encouraging and exciting.
“Together we hope to ignite enthusiasm, improving the quality of food these families consume, learn where it comes from, how it is produced and what it takes to grow delicious food from your
“Together, we will confidently pioneer small-scale residential food production in Northern Ireland, gaining the many benefits of this opportunity along our journey and sharing our experiences with as many others as possible to encourage a greater awareness of how growing food at home can make a significant and positive change to our environment, our overall health and community resilience.”
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