Living the good life needn’t overstretch your imagination

The popular East Cork ‘Good Living Day’ is back again this year — a celebration of mindful living combined with food stalls, healthy cooking demos, wellness talks and wellbeing activities.

It will be held on Sunday, February 25 within the grounds of Ballymaloe House and is sponsored by Cully and Sully Broths, Dream Dairy-free Drinks and Ballymaloe Foods.

What I like about it is the whole family dynamic — health starts in childhood and continues right the way through and the day carries events that cater for all age groups. Events often say ‘child friendly’ — this one means it.

Food is so intrinsic to health, not just what we eat, but how we cook it. On the day, cookery demos and talks will be hosted by Rachel Allen, Melissa Hemsley, James Kavanagh, William Murray and Lilly Higgins amongst others. Domini Kemp will be sharing her nutritional knowledge in a talk entitled ‘Food and Cancer’.

Claire McGrath, a fitness world champion, will be on hand to teach some tricks — while if yoga is your thing — or you think it might become your thing, then you can learn some moves with Cat Bradley.

The talks are quite diverse and really intriguing, amongst the array on offer, I note former prison governor John Lonergan will be sharing his insights on ‘How to be Happy & Content’ while child psychologist David Carey, will host a discussion on: ‘Raising resilient children’. Entry tickets start at €6 with some talks and demos priced individually. For further information and to book, visit

One of the sponsors of the ‘Good Living Day’, Cully & Sully have teamed up with GIY Ireland on the wonderful GROW2CEO campaign that will launch in March. The idea is to foster a spirit of food entrepreneurship in Irish secondary schools and give secondary school students the chance to win €5,000 worth of prizes.

The competition will take place over six weeks and comprise of four challenges that encourage schools to flex their growing, cooking and marketing skills by using their class-grown veg to create a soup recipe, name it, and pitch it as a food business of the future. FYI to TYS. More info at

What I love here is not just getting the kids enthusiastic about growing food but also getting them to learn how flavours work and what nutrition there is in what we eat. The fact that some of these projects may mirror the success of Cully and Sully in the future and not just on your local shelf, but in international markets, is awesome and I don’t use that word lightly.

I will be on the road from March, giving my gardening for health talks around the country and when I first started that over 10 years ago I was often met with incredulity because I was talking about the cancer-fighting properties of tomatoes rather than the how-to-stop-blossom-end-rot side of things.

Now even if I am contracted to talk about sowing a wildflower meadow, I’m asked about what the medicinal plants in the mix might be. The simple fact is that today, the higher percentages of gardeners and growers are growing, not with green thumbs in mind, but with health and wellbeing at the heart of their lifestyle.

Apart from wellness festivals, even gardening events are increasingly responding to the curiosity out there around how gardens can improve physical and mental health.

The theme of this year’s Clare Garden Festival (Sunday, April 29, 11-5pm) is Gardening for Mental Wellbeing and other shows have plans too, to highlight health. If you have a school project or a community innovation that concerns food growing, gardening for health, or to flex creative skills, then would you consider doing a garden at Bloom?

If yes, Bord Bia is looking for amateur gardeners to take part in the Postcard Gardens and offer passionate amateurs, garden clubs a 3m x 2m plot which can be used to represent your club, locality or a theme of your choice— including wellbeing if you like.

Applications are now open on the Bloom website and will close by March 6. Contact or visit’s exhibit section.

The great thing about gardening is not just the physical activity keeping you fit and the mental arithmetic of seed sowing or those cunning plans for pigeon and slugs that keep your grey matter agile, it’s also the sense of achievement — the positivity of doing. Personal accomplishment is often either frowned upon as showing off or just boring to the point of revulsion, as in instagraming your four-calorie lunch — like anyone really cares about your @fitnessfreak98 clean eating other than @skinnyninny101.

Don’t get me wrong, I take eating disorders seriously — but there is an industry (several in fact), out there maintaining a body dysmorphic populace and the best I can do is not like or follow the ones that come into my orbit. Where and when I can promote genuine healthy food attitudes and genuine wellness acquisition, I will.

An obsession with health and body is an unhealthy obsession — don’t be obsessed, be invested — be healthy, have health as a goal, but eat drink and sleep other things.

That’s the cool thing about gardening, you may, like me, appreciate the serotonin increase and use gardening as a medication (and solace too), and you get as caught up in how the kale or roses are coming on, than your own issues.

Personal troubles and self-doubt or self-obsession all become less pressing when there’s tasks to be done or things to admire or accomplishments to be nodded to.

You need more than one trick to garden — for those of us who grow and eat our five-a-day, health is generally about the place.

The lifestyle is not dependent on clicks and likes, its all about a bigger harvest and a finer reward.

Every day in the garden is a kind of good living day.

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