In Focus: Dee Sewell of Greenside Up describes herself as a vegetable gardening tutor, environmentalist, blogger and passionate about community gardening. AgriLand talks to her about the inspiration behind this organisation.
The Recession prompted many cash-strapped consumers to return to their roots, literally, with a massive growth in the number of people opting to grow their own produce. Greenside Up was established by Dee Sewell in 2009 and offers excellent advice and guidance for grow-it-yourself. The organisation is owned and managed by Dee and husband Ian, a qualified arboriculturalist, overseeing a vast array of education and business activities.
Dee’s foray into unchartered territory was a brave and intuitive move given the economic climate but it was working in a garden centre that really encouraged her to set up the company.
“I returned to education as a mature student and following a combination of my work experience module in a garden centre where I was able to talk to customers about their needs, as well as fellow students, I realised there was a desire for people to learn more about growing their own without committing to full time education. Initially I offered a tailored consultation service which quickly developed into both indoor and outdoor workshops,” she explained.
Primarily Greenside Up helped to establish community gardens in Carlow/Kilkenny by offering on-site help and tutoring. It also offers a consultation and advice service and this has proved a very popular option for gift certificates. Last Autumn Dee launched a seed gift collection that aims to encourage gardeners and non-gardeners alike to grow more herbs and vegetables. Each seed variety is chosen for its reliability and ease in the hope that it will encourage more people to start growing.
As the public’s interest in allotments and community gardens continues to grow Dee feels that education will play a key role in harnessing this enthusiasm.
“Many primary schools are now building gardens into their playgrounds and beginning to show children how to grow food, which also helps to give them an interest in the natural world. In Northern Ireland and the UK growing food is now included in the school curriculum. Bord Bia currently offer some information on its website about school gardening,” stated Dee.
Dee goes on to explain the benefits of growing your own produce “Families across the island are realising that from an economic point of view growing your own can help ease the burden on weekly shopping bills and as we’re becoming more aware of chemicals that are sprayed on conventionally grown crops, growing your own offers the option of eating a chemically reduced diet without the additional costs of buying organic,” explained Dee.
A look at the Greenside Up website, www.greensideup.ie, and it’s clear that Dee operates a hands-on approach when it comes to all elements of her business and customer service is no exception.
According to Dee the company uses social media to reach consumers as well as bolster relationships with current customers. “Social media is an excellent way of offering additional customer service and letting people know about my business as well as giving them the encouragement to grow their food. People can sign up for the newsletter which links to more than 300 blog posts and is written to help and advise customers. Twitter and LinkedIn helps me to link with other professionals in the industry while Facebook and google+ are a great way of connecting with many of my customers”.
Never one to rest on her laurels Dee has high expectations for the future. “My role in the Community Garden Network is helping to link tutors, organisations and gardeners and create an interest and awareness about community gardening which is a movement that’s growing.
“I’d like to see a community garden in every village and town so that people can find out for themselves the social, economic and educational benefits of growing their own which also gives them an awareness and appreciation of their local surroundings and business’ which will be vital over the coming years of uncertainty about the effect climate change will have on our planet.”
For more information go to www.greensideup.ie. Check out its Twitter and Facebook pages for dazzling pictures of home-grown produce and abundant wildlife. @Greensideupveg or www.facebook.com/Greensideupveg.
Pictured Dee Sewell