Spring is in the Air

Thanks to your generosity last week, we will be donating €900 to The Irish Cancer society.

A sense of possibility and new beginnings is naturally in the air in Spring. On the farm, maybe it is the start of the new plant and seed arrivals that kindles this feeling, but there is a sense that we can do things better this year, that we will try a little harder to get things right, that all will be well in the end.

Nature is waking up, the birds are singing, the daffodils are blooming, the new leaves are beginning to unfurl on the trees. The extra daylight means that life cycles are changing and growth increasing, it is a natural rhythm, and it resonates on a subconscious level, if you let it.

Even our lovely new season salad is responding well to the extra light, and we will be harvesting ours and also Mick and Audrey from Millhouse farm will be delivering their gorgeous salad to us for all the boxes next week.

The sun is higher in the sky and on clear days you can feel the first tendrils of warmth, there is more power too in its rays and from now on the capture of this power to make electricity works well. (We installed a large solar panel array two years ago and it sits on the roof of one of our sheds generating clean renewable energy.)

Frequently now we can see plants growing, hear the birds singing and the insects buzzing well before it is time. This can be symbolic of a world out of sync and it has ramifications for all living systems. Planning a season of vegetable growing on the farm becomes more of a gamble as the natural order we rely on can change unpredictably and dramatically.

Luckily to date here in Ireland we have been spared the worst of the effects of the climate emergency. The climate crisis is a complex global problem but maybe the solutions are also simpler than we think? Down at the level of you and I there is much that can be done. Planting trees is one of the simplest ways to help redress the balance, as farmers we have an obligation to plant trees, and as gardeners there is always space for a tree. Again, thanks to your support, we just recently planted another 1500 trees here on our farm. By supporting local food growers like us and Mick and Audrey you too are doing your bit to tackle the climate crisis.

The prediction of the weather for the year ahead was often associated with a saying closely tied to trees, “ash before oak you are in for a soak, oak before ash you are in for a splash”. It seems this year at least here in Galway that the ash has won the race. Nevertheless, if living and farming in the west of Ireland has taught me one thing it is that the weather is unpredictable. It changes fast and sometimes when you least expect it, it surprises you.

Here is hoping for a lovely, sunny Summer surprise this year.

Kenneth

PS – DON’T FORGET IT IS DELIVERIES AS NORMAL FOR US NEXT WEEK, AND MONDAY IS A BANK HOLIDAY BUT NORMAL ORDERING AND DELVIERES APPLIES!!

We are maintaining the FREE Delivery over €100 next week also!

PPS – You have until Monday evening to grab your place on the Green Fingers course part 1 as we will be sending out seeds and resource packs next week by post!

A Fresh Start

Every year it happens, we are waiting and waiting and then bang out of the blue it all starts again. I guess life is like that sometimes, we push and we shove and want to change things, and then when we finally just accept the ways things are (often because what we were doing was making no difference anyway) and least expect it things fall into place.

So it was this morning with my first farm walk in two weeks. We have been struggling with rain and frost and snow for the past two months, and then this morning bright sunshine, singing birds, and growth were evident all around.

We have been busy planting trees and doing some essential maintenance on the tunnels, thinking we had all the time in the world and now suddenly we do not.  The crops need to have our focus again, they are flying. We are finally restarting kale harvest and leeks, and purple sprouting broccoli.

We need to get back into the fields and that starts today.

The first new kale harvest is an unusual one, as we wait for the regrowth, having carefully nurtured the plants over winter, cleaned them and fed them nothing seems to happen for an eternity and then suddenly there is the new kale.

Nature is very subtle, we are always on the watch for change, and somehow just suddenly it changes without you noticing. Like a seed germinating, one day it is a seed and the next it is a plant is has germinated, just like that, this is the miracle and power of nature. It is the same with the kale regrowing, it just happens when the time is right. Or the birds singing a spring morning chorus they just begin.

I get excited at this time of the year, the start of a new growing season and the challenges and opportunities it brings fill me with hope for the year.

It is a natural cycle and as we emerge from the dark winter months there is a sense, at least on the farm, of a new slate, a fresh start, a chance to begin the journey anew.

Nature is wonderful like that, and up until this period in man’s history it has been stable and consistent. I read this morning that the Gulf Stream which here in Northern Europe we rely on for our stable weather patterns is not in good shape. As a result of climate breakdown the ocean currents that power our climate are in turmoil.

These complex global climate regulation mechanisms are hard to understand I would imagine, but there are clear signs that climate stability all over our one and only beautiful home is being compromised.

I do admit to getting frustrated with the slow pace of change, it doesn’t make sense to me. There is a phenomenal opportunity now to take the risk and invest in Green Energy, to cut consumption and do so much more. We as a small farm have done it, and we as a small country can do it.

But maybe it is like the kale regrowing or the seed germinating, you can’t force the seed to grow faster or the kale to appear faster, but all of a sudden without even noticing it has changed.

Maybe that is happening now too with movement to cut consumption, power our lives with green energy, moving to more plant based diets, all these things are happening.

You are causing change by supporting us and as always we could not do what we do without you.

Thank you.

Kenneth

Sign up for a fruit and veg box subscription or build your own box. We deliver to every address in Ireland! Head to www.greenearthorganics.ie to place your order. Thank you.

This Year’s Tree Planting Has Begun

This past week marks the first of our tree planting that we began on your behalf. We are planting another 1500 trees and this is specifically because of your support.

You have enabled us to do this as well as so much more. Because we charge a little more for our organic produce we can take the steps we do take to grow food sustainably.

This is not all your support has enabled. The solar panels on our packing shed roof every day are generating clean electricity. The rainwater harvesting enables the watering of our tunnels with chlorine free water.

The hundreds of metres of hedge rows that we have grown and the preservation of old hedgerows, the sowing of wildflowers. Madly, the re-homing of two rescue pigs, who may I add are getting fatter and bigger by the day.

The resting of the land, the sowing of green manure to take carbon from the air and fertilise the ground. The production of crops without chemicals.

The delivery of your boxes without plastic, the collection and reuse of our boxes. The support for many local small-scale Irish business. The support of several local Irish organic growers. The purchase of only Fair-trade produce where it is available. Never air-freighting produce. Always looking to reduce food waste, never rejecting food based on looks or size, but making sure we keep a close eye on quality.

Not doing it all for profit, but hoping to make a profit.

You are supporting all of this, you are also supporting a new way of doing things, you are sending a message to the powers that be that there is a better way, that things can be done differently, it doesn’t have to be all about large scale intensification of agriculture to the detriment of biodiversity and our countryside.

We aim to make sure we are supplying you with the very freshest, best tasting healthiest produce. We aim to make sure it is as if you picked it yourself. It is a difficult business to be in: growing, handling and delivering fresh produce, that is why there are so few doing it. It is hard to get it right, not saying we always get it right, but when we don’t we will be the first to admit it and set it right straight away.

You are supporting local jobs in rural Ireland, you are keeping a community alive, you are supporting a different way of life.

Thank you for placing your trust in us.

Kenneth

Get your organic fruit, veg and grocery orders in now for delivery next week.

A New, Better Green Revolution

Over a century ago the American investigative journalist Alfred Henry Lewis observed that there are only nine meals between humankind and anarchy. 

It is always there, the food on the supermarket shelves. It never runs out, but how tenuous is this link to our perceived food security?

Disruption to food production is a whole different level of vulnerability. Climate change is hitting agriculture hard. The frequency of drought, storms, extremes of temperature, are disrupting the very delicate balance in nature required to grow food.

As with business, in agriculture if you are running a system at maximum capacity it takes very little to upset the balance and cause the system to breakdown.  We are pushing our natural resources, we are concerned with ever more production.  We open-up pristine rain-forest land for massive soya plantations, we attempt to extract higher yields from our current systems. 

We are looking for a second “green revolution” we are looking to technology to help improve yields, to continue with business as normal.   

At the very same time where we require more food to feed a growing population, we are seeing variability in our weather systems never seen before, the hottest five years ever recorded all occurred since 2014.

It is such a privilege to be living during this period of prosperity in our Garden of Eden, should we not be doing everything we can to protect it, not destroy it.

The flow of food from field to fork is taken for granted. A major climatic shift could leave us very swiftly with food scarcity. I don’t know what real hunger feels like, but our ancestors in the 1840’s certainly did.

There is no greater or more urgent need than to deal with man-made climate change now.

Producing different food in more sustainable ways, eating differently, consuming less, using renewable energy there are the changes needed.  A transition starts with pushing the burden for the destruction of our planet back onto the companies that are responsible, oil companies and plastics companies, agribusiness and large-scale food business. These are the companies that now run the planet, they dictate what we do and how we do it.

There is so much we can do, our choices matter and we can start our own “Green revolution”

Kenneth

PS It is ironic that “the Green revolution” in the 1950’s was the term applied to the change in agriculture that embraced artificial fertiliser, consolation of farm land and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Thank you for joining the new green revolution by supporting our farm over supermarkets. You can set up a convenient veg box subscription by emailing info@greenearthorganics.ie or place specific orders over on our website www.greenearthorganics.ie

Lots of Small Changes

Do small changes make a difference?

When I was younger, I believed that by convincing my parents to recycle glass bottles and joining Green Peace that we would make a difference, I was utterly convinced, I never doubted it for a second, I knew the planet was precious and that our changes made a difference.

All young children have a connection with nature and they believe they can do anything, so what happens as we grow up? Why do we lose that sense of value for the natural world that we had as children?

When we started the farm, I believed growing sustainable food would change the planet, and that all we needed was a tractor, some seeds and we would have a successful farm. When we expanded into Dublin, I believed we would finally be able to reach enough people to get the farm and the business running smoothly and start to make a real difference to what and how people eat. At times on this journey, I became disillusioned. The pressure and stress, the financial hardships, the decisions, the fighting to do the right thing when it seemed it was all going against us made me question why we were doing what we were doing. But ultimately, we stayed the course and stuck to our principles.

I am not sure how long it normally takes, but it took (and continues to take) a long time to realise  that no one change in isolation changes anything. Real change and success is built on lots and lots of little things done consistently over time. This is as true for building a new habit as for fixing the planet.

Maybe one by one and little by little all our changes taken together can effect real change. Maybe your choice to plant a tree, to avoid weed killer, or to tell you kids about biodiversity and educate them in the beauty and preciousness of nature contribute to real positive change.

By buying from us you are effecting real change, you are choosing a different way to eat and are supporting serious changes behind the scenes.

On the farm we produce some of our electricity by a 11kW solar panel array on the roof of our packing shed. We farm organically, we grow trees, and hedges and flowers and food. We use paper and compostable plant-based bags, we reuse our boxes, we aspire to zero waste and being carbon neutral.

Your choice to support us means you are one of a community that are choosing a new and better way to eat, you are supporting farming and food for a better planet.

Does it matter? Does it matter that you support a zero-waste circular economy, a sustainable means of growing food and a better food future, does that matter?

Well in my book that does matter, it matters a lot.

Thank you for your support.

Kenneth

PS. Get your orders in for next week here. Fruit and veg boxes, groceries, treats and more – all organic and carefully sourced from sustainable businesses when not home grown.

Many Lessons Learned

I remember growing potatoes, and funnily enough onions, with my dad when I was a young lad of nine or ten or so. Back then it was what you did, we used to have a big timber box in the shed, we would harvest the potatoes after the skin had “set” and fill the box for the winter.

If we knew there was a few days of sun coming, it was my job to climb up on to the top of the shed and lay out the onions to dry, I liked that. I guess I must have learned something back then.  

When we moved back to Ireland 17 years ago, I started growing vegetables again. The first carrots I grew were amazing, and I was proud of producing our food right there in our garden. It seemed the most sensible thing in the world to produce food locally and naturally without chemicals. My time working in the chemical industry had taught me chemicals belong in a lab and not on our food.

There were many lessons learned (and many we continue to learn) going from a few beds in the garden to a 40 acre farm, but the over-riding principle of producing food sustainably has never changed.

It seems to me that it is increasingly difficult, and downright irresponsible to justify taking decisions that do not put not the welfare of the planet at their core. We can no longer justify growing 80% of our crops to feed animals and growing them with excessive use of chemicals and artificial fertiliser.

For some it is easier to pretend that nothing is happening, and everything is going to be ok, that the people in charge know what they are doing and that they will make the right decisions. Thankfully some do, some businesses are embracing change, some leaders are showing that there is a different way, but there is still so much to be done.

Time is running out. Sugar coating the inevitable is not going to make climate breakdown go away, but how easy it would be to change our behaviour. We are on the precipice of rapid change. A new era of sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, a reduction in consumption and a new outlook is upon us, business as usual will be relegated to the back of the closet where it belongs.

We (you and I) have such an opportunity to lead the way, to be at the heart of a food and carbon revolution and it can start with the simple step of changing what we put on our plates. The most amazing thing about sustainable food of course, is that not only is it better for you and I and the planet, but it tastes so much better too.

As always thanks for your support. You can sign up to a veg box subscription by emailing us or order direct from our website here. Not only do we delivery the best organic fruit and veg, but a wide range of organic groceries too!

Kenneth

Festive Food Waste

Food waste is a huge environmental problem all year round, but over Christmas, it seems we throw out about 30% more than usual. According to Stop Food Waste, here in Ireland we generate at least 1.27 million tonnes of food waste each year! Food waste is one of the largest contributors to climate change. Growing, processing and transporting food uses significant resources. And so if food is wasted, then of course these resources are wasted too.

Globally, around 1.4 billion hectares of land is used to grow food which is then wasted. That’s a lot of land that could be returned to the wild. While some food waste is anaerobically digested to make biogas, composted, or rendered for animal food, a lot of the food waste produced is still going to landfill where it doesn’t just harmlessly break down, but it emits methane, a gas 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. According to Project Drawdown, an international group of experts, reducing food waste is the 3rd most effective action we can take to reverse climate change.

Home composting is a great solution if you have the space, but you should only compost uncooked vegetables (known as green matter) along with brown matter like tea leaves, coffee grounds, shredded card/paper, tree leaves etc – successful compost has a balance of brown and green matter and is incredibly beneficial to your soil health. Cooked food waste should not go into your home compost as typical home composters don’t get hot enough to safely break down the food and it also attracts rodents. Put your cooked food waste in a council provided food waste bin where it will be taken to a commercial compost site to be anaerobically digested. Or better yet, don’t waste the food at all! Try to use up your cooked food waste in inventive dishes and show your leftovers some love!

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started. Please ask questions and share your favourite Christmas leftover meal ideas in the comments too and have a waste-free feast! Let me know if you made these leftover-loving meals and tag us on Instagram or share your meal on our Facebook page. We love to see what you are cooking! Liz x

Festive Farinata

A farinata is a bit like a frittata but made with chickpea flour batter instead of eggs. Simply whisk together one part chickpea flour (also known as gram flour) with one part warm water (I like to thin it out with an extra splash of water too), season the batter really well with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Then let it rest while you pre-heat the oven and prepare a roasting dish with your leftover Christmas vegetables.

Put a little olive oil into the base of the dish, then chop up whatever leftover veg you have from your roast. Potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, red cabbage, squash, sprouts… pop them into the roasting dish then pour over the chickpea flour batter.

Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the farinata and crack over some black pepper. You could also add some crumbled tofeta (I used the leftover bit from making my cranberry and tofeta cigars) or other odds and ends of Christmas cheeses. Then put the dish into a hot oven (200C) and bake it until the batter is set. The time depends on how big or deep your dish is, just keep an eye on it. It’s done when it’s golden brown on top and with minimal wobble.

Allow it to settle for a few minutes out of the oven and then ease it away from the sides of the dish with a palette knife or spatula. Slice it into portions and eat it hot or cold with salads, ferments, dips and chutneys or sauces to your liking. Enjoy!

Swedish-style Stuffing Balls

Leftover stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce? Make my Swedish style meatballs dish, it’s delicious. Swedish meatballs are typically served with boiled or mashed potatoes, a rich, creamy gravy, lingonberry jam (cranberry sauce is a brilliant substitute) and steamed greens. It’s a hearty and satisfying winter dish so I tend to make this rather than Italian style meatballs with leftover stuffing from our Sunday Roasts, or in this case Christmas Dinner, in winter.

Get some potatoes on to boil for mash and some greens ready for steaming or wilting.

Then simply squish your stuffing together into little balls (if it’s gone dry add a splash of stock, if it’s too wet add some oats or breadcrumbs) and fry them in a large pan with some melted butter and olive oil. Turn them regularly with tongs to get them browning on all sides.

Keep the stuffing balls warm in a dish in the oven while you finish making the mashed potatoes, steam some greens and heat up and enrich your leftover gravy.

Heat up your leftover gravy with a splash of water, then when it’s nice and hot enrich it with a generous splash of oat/soy cream. Gently bring it back up to heat, but don’t let it boil. Then taste it for seasoning and adjust it if needed with more salt/pepper.

Serve the stuffing balls with mashed potatoes, creamy gravy, steamed greens and a big dollop of cranberry sauce on the side.