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Nation urged to get growing and shore-up food supply

BiaHero was inspired by Ireland’s current food supply chain, with only 1% of farms growing produce.

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Frank, seven, Nora, five, and Tom, three, at the launch of the national BiaHero campaign in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Frank, seven, Nora, five, and Tom, three, at the launch of the national BiaHero campaign in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Frank, seven, Nora, five, and Tom, three, at the launch of the national BiaHero campaign in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

A campaign has been launched to raise awareness of food security and to encourage people to grow their own produce.

Those behind the BiaHero initiative say the Covid-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerability of the global food system.

Only 1% of Irish farms grow fruit and vegetables so large quantities are imported.

BiaHero encourages the production of local, ecologically-sound food in the community.

The organisers say they founded the initiative after the pandemic laid bare Ireland’s current food supply system.

The last two months also saw unprecedented online sales of herb and vegetable seeds as many people started growing some of their own food.

As restrictions begin to ease and people can travel to their allotments and community gardens, the BiaHero founders have called for the public to keep growing.

The campaign already has more than 800 members nationwide.

Only 1% of Irish farms grow vegetables and less than 1% have orchards. According to Eurostat, that is far lower than the 12% average on EU farms.

Central Statistics Office figures show Ireland imports approximately 2,600 million euro of fruit, vegetables and cereals per year.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland claims the country’s dependence on the globalised food system leaves it “vulnerable” to supply chain disruptions.

The BiaHero campaign aims to teach and encourage people to grow their own food in environmentally friendly ways.

It also offers advice on obtaining seeds and harvesting produce, and can help whether people want to grow in their own gardens, on a windowsill, on an allotment or community garden, or in a public space.

Zac Lumley, a first-time grower from Cork city and BiaHero co-founder, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has created a window of opportunity to recreate the skills of growing our own food, to rekindle the joy of connection with the land and to support a resilient food system.”

Aisling Wheeler, an expert small holder from Co Clare and a member of BiaHero, added: “There is little doubt that now is the time to rethink land use and farming practices in Ireland.

“We need policy solutions which can support regenerative agriculture and increase food sovereignty, create more resilience and leave Ireland less susceptible to food security issues which could arise as a result of other emergencies, such as the ever looming climate and biodiversity crisis we currently face.”

PA