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.


5 responses to this post.

  1. What Trevor didn’t say,

    Is that he agreed happily to turn up at 24 hours notice and launch the book. The launch was very last minute.

    As far as this book went, there was only one man to launch it.

    Trevor has thrown his all into the promotion of allotments and organic food in Ireland in these last ten years despite the slagging. People are now getting allotments and growing food thanks to his work.

    I was proud to have him launch my book. The pointedly loud round of applause he got before he stood up to speak summed up the work he has done in this field. From the days when a Fianna Failer got him in a headlock on the council chamber floor, he has been an inspiration to me. He has principles and balls.

    Thanks Trevor,

    Mark Keenan


    • Posted by Colm on February 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      While browsing, I noticed the above. I got Mark’s book as a birthday present last week and am very much enjoying reading about his travails through his allotment. Full of wit, humour and good sense



      • Hi Colm,

        Hope all growing well for you in Limerick. Enjoying Mark’s book and blackcurrants coming on? Mine now in flower so good harvest ahead hopefully. Can’t wait as last year’s harvest most of which I froze, is nearly all gone!

        Le meas,
        Trevor Sargent

  2. Posted by keith parker on January 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Hi Trevor

    Just stumbled across your allotment website great to read adn to compare with what we do here in SW France where you came a few years back. Maurice our old neighbour who used to supply us with garden produce is now sadly too old to manage his garden so I have been given a natural way into gardening with him as my mentor

    We well remember your arrival and departure on your two wheel stead

    Hoping that all is well

    Kind regards
    from Cathy and Keith


    • Hi Cathy and Keith,
      Great to hear from you and to remember that wonderful Castang welcome and hospitality. That visit led to a number of local Farmers’ Markets being established around North County Dublin here. Best wishes with your own kitchen gardening. I’ll never forget your wonderful cuisine.
      Trevor Sargent


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