Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties. As an organic farmer growing vegetables in the West of Ireland being resilient then is something that you would think is second nature, hmmm???

Our farm may be a little more resilient than most by the virtue that it is smallish (40acres), organic, diverse (we grow loads of different varieties of vegetables) rich in biodiversity (hedgerows, trees, bees, wildflowers) and alive but it is still a constant challenge to make it all work.

In the short-term resilience costs, there is a cost to planting trees and hedgerows, there is a cost to leaving acres to go wild. There is a cost to growing many different crops and managing all the challenges that come with it, the cost of energy and time of training new people each year, the cost of keeping chaos at bay without the use of chemicals.

In the longer term, resilience in our food chain pays dividends, more bees to pollinate our plants, better soil structure reducing water logging and flooding, vibrant and healthy biodiversity that keeps pests in check. Ultimately resilience helps produce better, tastier, healthier food, so instead of focusing on producing things as cheaply as possible, we focus on producing things as sustainably as possible.

But a long-term approach to food production is not something that the major retailers seem to have any interest in. The short termism of the supermarkets may deliver cheap food but in the long run there will be a price to pay.

Endless machine repairs…

But a long-term approach to food production is not something that the major retailers seem to have any interest in. The short termism of the supermarkets may deliver cheap food but in the long run there will be a price to pay.

This is the question I keep returning to. We certainly do not have the deep pockets of the supermarkets and yet to an extent we are competing with them, they set the pricing, they devalue fresh food by loss leading. How can we compete and be sustainable and resilient at the same time? Well, the answer is we cannot, we cannot sell food for less than the value it takes to grow the food! There is no getting away from the fact that to protect our planet we need to produce different food and we need to do it sustainably; we need a fair and resilient food system.

So, I think in our little patch in the West of Ireland we will continue to plan to be more resilient. But this month on the farm a different form of resilience is being tested and we are being stretched to the limit. The weather has not been kind and it is putting us under a level of pressure that I don’t enjoy. Can you be resilient while falling behind with planting and weeding, never having enough resource, of the land being endlessly wet, of uncovering crops and finding 40% eaten by creatures. Endless setbacks bend your will, stretch your ability to stick with it, they make you want to quit, stop, turn back, and give up, but inside all of this messy stuff there is a deep-rooted commitment to keep going, a conviction (even if we can’t feel it) it will be better soon, it always is!

How easy it is to forget though? I am not new to this and after 15 years of farming in the West of Ireland wet ground and excessive rain in June should not be a shock. Maybe then it is just that I am older, and I wish things would be different. I know too in a month it will all look so different, but I find I must keep reminding myself of this. So that too is a form of resilience, to keep going even when you really do not feel like it.

Squashes being planted into bio-plastic, compostable weed suppressant

Here is to each of us being more resilient and to a more resilient food system!

Thank you.

Kenneth

2 Replies to “Resilience”

  1. What you do at GEO is simply wonderful.

    Change can only happen from within ‘the system’. GEO is an important component of the food production system and by raising people’s awareness as you do, change is coming about. It does take at least a generation to change the ‘established’ ways of thinking/doing things. (Pandemics aside!!)

    Like you I believe the love devotion and care that goes into anything we do manifests in the end product. People are starting to get that and are prepared to pay for it.

    It is only resilience (on every level) and dogged determination that chips away at firmly established resistance to change.

    Even though at times it feels as though you are wading through treacle (in concrete boots!) know that you are a vital instrument in that wheel of change which is continually turning.
    It is an ongoing process.

    It Is only looking back that you can see how far you have come.

    Thank you for all you are doing with resilience devotion and backbreaking hard work. .
    Know it matters.

  2. Keep it up Ken, great to see the pics too, well done to you and all of the team there, and lovely piece as ever!

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