Teaching Growth. Teaching Green
In the early summer of 2009, Dee Sewell created Greenside Up, a social enterprise that helps people to grow their own vegetables without chemicals.
The aim of Greenside Up is to teach as many people as possible this basic life skill and Dee does this by working as a tutor offering gardening workshops, by specialising with community gardening groups, and virtually through social media and blogging.
Who’s Behind Greenside Up?
Hello, I’m Dee, the inspiration and driver behind the social enterprise. I’m a member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulturalists and a qualified trainer who has a passion for the environment, growing vegetables and self-sufficiency. My husband Ian, otherwise known as ‘Mr G’ on the blog, is the creator of anything wooden and a fantastic fixer of anything. He’s also as a qualified arboriculturalist so the man to ask for anything tree related.
With friends living in County Kilkenny and my Dad threatening to ‘move back’ for all of my childhood years, we finally moved to Ireland in 1998 with a grand dream of leaving the rat race and becoming fully self-sufficient; a dream we’re still chasing.
We were married for just a month when we packed our bags, sold our motorbikes and sailed across the Irish sea, moving from a busy north Essex town to rural, upland Carlow. Once here, we began renovating an old semi-derelict farmhouse ourselves, growing fruit, herbs and vegetables, had three children and made a home for our new family and animals in the hills.
‘Once a Gardener’
Mum and Dad were both keen gardeners; mum loved her ornamentals and I was often called outside to help with the weeding. I remember Dad straining grapes through old (clean!) tights in the kitchen to make wine or pottering around in the greenhouse he inherited.
My first teenage weekend job was working in a village greengrocers filling customers bags with fruit and veg, and I’ll never forget spending a hot, sweaty summer sideshooting and defoliating tomatoes in one of the many greenhouses on a local farm. Once I left home I grew herbs in containers that could be moved from house to house. Looking back, fruit and veg were always in my life.
As a result, when our youngest child started school, I began thinking of a change of career (prior to moving over I was an executive secretary). I returned to full-time education as a mature student and studied horticulture. As a result of everything I learnt, we’re now doing our best to ‘live the life’ of self sufficiency but it’s easier said than done with the juggle of our own teens, work and life in general.
What we do
The Greenside Up office and gardens are based between Carlow and Kilkenny, 100 km south of Dublin and 1,000 feet up in the hills. As a result Greenside Up travels to wherever people want to learn – in their own homes, gardens, allotments or communities, thus helping to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible.
Aside from teaching people with special needs, under fives, teenagers and adults across the full social economic spectrum, Dee uses social media to share her knowledge. She strongly believes that customer service should extend beyond the first visit and therefore follows-up with newsletters, updates on all the popular social media sites and is a prolific blogger. This was recognised in 2012 when the Greenside Up blog secured finalist positions in both the Social Media Awards and the 2012 Blog Awards Ireland, and then in 2013 Dee was crowned Best Overall Blogger as well as winner of three category awards at the Blog Awards Ireland ceremony held in October, all of which helps to spread the growth and green word.
As well as working with customers in their own gardens, Dee has run workshops privately or via the Carlow/Kilkenny Education Training Board for Family Resource Centres, community and parish centres, private guest houses, the HSE, Rural Development, Kilkenny Leader Partnership and Ossary Youth. A portfolio of Dee’s community garden activities can be found here.
As a result of Dee’s experience helping beginners learn how to grow their own, she created the monthly projects for the GIY Ireland Operation GIY Nation and has written articles for My Kids Time, as well as guest blogs and online magazine articles.
Community Garden Network
With a passion for community gardening, in 2011 Dee was instrumental in founding the Community Garden Network Group that was established to support community gardening in Ireland and Northern Ireland. She voluntarily coordinates and promotes this group on press and radio as well as administers the Facebook and Twitter sites and along with other members, helped to launch the NING forum website in 2012 and the current website in 2015.
The Group aim to meet quarterly in different towns and cities around the island and are supported by Healthy Food for All, Dublin Community Growers, Transition Ireland & Northern Ireland, The Organic Centre, GIY Ireland and The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. For more information take a look at the Community Garden Network website.
In 2013 the Community Garden Network entered a Postcard Garden in Bloom – Bord Bia’s Garden and Food Festival held in Phoenix Park in Dublin which Dee was delighted to be involved from the beginning.
What does the green mean in Greenside Up?
An integral part of the business ethos is a commitment to recognising the importance of protecting our environment, and helping others do likewise.
Without compromising on customer service, all course notes are initially offered by email and in the event that they are printed, paper is sourced from sustainable forests or recycled.
Greenside Up actively promotes vegetable gardening without the use of artificial chemicals, and positively encourages wildlife and pollinators into gardens.
As well as growing vegetables, customers are encouraged and advised how to reduce their landfill, to stop food waste by composting and recycling, they learn about beneficial insects, biodiversity, companion planting, water conservation, the impact of using peat and informed about genetically modified organisms.
If you’d like to get in touch and find out more about what we do and how we can help you, contact Greenside Up.
To keep up to date with workshops, things to do and grow in the vegetable garden or the latest Greenside Up articles, sign up for the newsletter to receive monthly updates.
Greenside Up is a Registered Company No. 388060