GIY - A Future for Irish Vegetables?

There’s a vegetable shortage crisis, yet Irish vegetable growers are going out of business – what’s going on?

If you haven’t caught up with the excellent TV series Food Matters yet and want to get a handle on what’s going wrong with Irish food production – and what can be done about it - do make a point of watching.
Airing on RTÉ One until May 3rd, the series uncovers how Ireland's food system is a major contributor to the climate change emergency.
Each week the founder of GIY (Grow-It-Yourself), Michael Kelly, meets producers from all across the country to investigate the sustainability of Ireland's food system. It’s not all doom and gloom but there are plenty of shocks. Since filming was completed, for example, one of the county's biggest vegetable growers has gone out of business. Cathal Lenehan, one of the country's main cabbage and Brussels sprout growers, left the industry after three generations due to rising costs.Yet there has never been a bigger shortage of vegetables and, as Michael Kelly says, "As a nation, we simply do not appreciate and support our own home-grown vegetable producers enough."

The Irish consumer obsession with the Mediterranean diet has seen mass attention placed on the lack of vegetables on the shelves due to climate change impacting the production of tomatoes and peppers in Europe – however, as Michael says, we have a huge variety of alternative Irish-grown vegetables that are in season and these go under-appreciated and, crucially, the growers are unsupported. Vegetables grown in Ireland that are in, or coming into, season include carrots, parsnips, young cabbage, cauliflower, spring onions, leeks, fennel, snap peas, asparagus, artichoke and fava beans – and these are the ones we should be focusing on now. “A huge and proven factor in health and well-being is eating seasonally and therefore it is these home-grown in-season vegetables that we should be seeking out." Michael says.

Throughout the series, Michael travels across Ireland to meet with farmers, food producers, food experts, climate experts, chefs, economists, ecologists and activists as he digs deep to uncover the complexity of the Irish food system, how it works, how it delivers and how it impacts the environment. An episode focused on 'Supporting Local' shows how consumers can be more supportive of producers and, importantly, why we need to be. Michael’s point is simple: "If we don't look after our food producers, we're never going to fix our broken food system. Farmers and small producers face increased pressures and this is not sustainable. Possible solutions include turning to a more local-based system: go direct to the producers, shop at shops that support local, shop fresh and shop seasonal."

When Michael meets with grower Cathal Lenehan in Meath, he discovers how rising costs and anticipation of falling sales prices led to the closure of their third-generation business – and how it could have been prevented by a commitment to a small increase in supermarket prices. Mick also talks to former IFA chair of the horticulture sector, Paul Brophy, to see what we are doing to help farmers and producers during the current cost of living crisis, and travels to Kerry to discuss the situation with independent veg retailer Dan Horan.
On a brighter note, Mick discovers how one Wicklow company has managed to put sustainability at the core of their drinks business with the support of their local community, while in Tipperary the Cloughjordan Community Farm is also all about supporting each other. And, back at GROW HQ in Waterford, Mick takes part in a very special podcast with Jack from NeighbourFood, about how they are connecting small producers with a wider customer base and making it a win-win for small producers and their customers.
***The six-part documentary TV series 'Food Matters' series uncovers Ireland's food sustainability and how the food system is a major contributor to the climate change emergency. Produced by InProduction TV & Scéal Creative Ltd it is presented by GIY founder Mick Kelly, and supported by the EPA Stop Food Waste & ReThink Ireland. It airs on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player at 8 pm on Wednesdays until May 3rd.

*Episodes of the inaugural series of Food Matters to look out for or catch up with:


For further details, to arrange a visit to GROW HQ, or to plan an interview with Mick Kelly please contact Ann Power, 086 3065588 Email:



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