New Book on Allotmenteering Launched

Trevor Sargent

Mark Keenan is the man who writes The Sunday Times column about his experience producing food from an allotment in Bohernabreena in the foothills of the Dublin mountains. The column, for reasons you can guess, is called ‘Plot 34′. Small wonder then that he went on to write a book about the whole experience called ‘Plot 34, blood, sweat and allotmenteers’.

Mark did me the honour of calling to ask if I would launch the new book published by Brandon Press, which was founded and run by the legendary publisher Steve Mc Donagh, Dia lena anam dílis. This is my kind of gig so we arranged the time last Tuesday for 7.30pm when the Dáil was not due to vote until 8.30pm. The Village Venue on Wexford Street, Dublin, hosted the friendly, earthy, event.

After a very kind introduction, Mark asked me to say a few words. Tongue in cheek, Mark refers to his plot as ‘Gulag 34′, which gives some idea of the commitment needed to get a serious output from a new plot. The book contains much humour, anecdotes about rearing horticulltural children as well as some 55 varieties of fruit and vegetables.

In my ‘few words’, I referred to the support now available from farmers who offer plots to rent and from local authorities which increasingly want to meet allotment associations half way and facilitate the desire among people to grow food near where they live. I also suggested that where farmers’ markets have a Bord Bia standard, there is scope to sell surplus produce from a garden or allotment.

Globally the financial crisis has shown how fast change can take place. Growing more food locally is a good way to cushion the blow should the food we currently import be more difficult or too expensive to purchase. Right now global food demand is outstripping production. 85 million humans are added to the world population each year requiring an extra 5 million hectares of farm land. However, due to soil erosion, about 10 million hectares are being lost. Hence the shocking levels of deforestation which are a big cause of climate change. We need more, not less, trees to lock up that excessive C02.

So in digging up part of his lawn at home and then expanding his quest for Growing It Yourself to a scenic plot overlooking Dublin city, Mark Keenan, became the change all of us need to see happen more and more.
It is shocking to think we import so many onions, potatoes, cabbage, beetroot, herbs, garlic etc when all of these can be grown with the help of this book. The resulting food will keep you healthy and the humourous turn of phrase in this book will keep you happy.