I Am Angry

Have you ever felt you just do not fit in, you seem to be going against the grain, that you are different?

This thought struck me as I spotted a lonely white cabbage amidst a sea of black kale today.  Not too dissimilar to ourselves I thought, an outsider, not quite in the right place, definitely not fitting in, being different and not really caring what others think.

Of course, the cabbage is just being a cabbage (and probably not thinking a whole lot about anything, it would be wrong of me to suggest otherwise!), but it started me thinking.  

I continued on my crop walk through the fields and I spotted the most amazing intricate display of spider’s webs on one of our kale plants, it seemed that nature was vibrating and shouting look, look at me I’m doing my thing and I am beautiful.

Nature just works. And we have so little idea of how this amazing and complex interwoven web of life works.  All of the natural world links together and works, it just does, and it is truly amazing. Nothing is forced, it all flows, a natural cycle of life and death, always moving always flowing.

Who are we to impose our will and ideas on this beautiful planet without due consideration for all that we share it with? Who are we to extract all that we can by processes that are clearly exploitive, driven by profit? The price is simply too great and is not acceptable.

When will we realise that our habit of constant and increasing consumption are doing irrevocable damage? That our actions are taking away something beautiful, something we all need to be sane in an increasing insane world and only when it is gone will we notice and then sadly it will be too late.

Some days I get so angry, and I am past caring what people think (I guess age brings certain benefits.) But I am angry, and you too have a right to be angry too with the way we as human beings exploit this gentle and strong and beautiful energy that is our Earth.

We cannot compromise in our decisions, and to an extent this is why, even though I am inextricably linked to the world of business, I don’t have to like it.  Practising mindful, conscious, ethical business in a world that is driven by excessive consumption and low prices is difficult, but it is possible, and we do it. 

We have always committed to growing food in the most sustainable manner possible and only sourcing food from the most sustainable suppliers and paying them fairly.  We have always maintained that this is the only way to farm and to do business.

Like the cabbage in the field of kale we are most definitely outsiders, most definitely the underdog. We have a long way to go, we don’t always get it right, we struggle with the challenges but every day we try a little harder and face the challenges and pain head on.

So, for the sake of our planet let’s get a little angry together and make some changes.

Thanks for joining our movement, let us be the channel for your energy.

Kenneth

Let us deliver sustainably grown and sourced fruits, vegetables and groceries to your door if you feel angry too.

There’s No Planet B

Our story this year has many parts to it. The planning and advice, the hard work and organisation of the farm team. The fertility and soil management, the weather and the birds and the bees have all played their part.

Our amazing team of packers, rising each morning sometimes at 4am to get to work at 5am to start packing your orders. Finally, having you our customers willing to supporting our farm and a whole bunch of good luck has got us through to another autumn, my 17th year growing vegetables and our 15th year in business.

Growing vegetables commercially is a tough endeavour and in the stony wet land of the West of Ireland it is particularly challenging.  

The skill and art of growing our food is so important and we need to preserve this knowledge. It is invigorating to see so many small-scale growers embrace sustainable growing.

Yet, many commercial growers are struggling, the work is too hard, the price for their produce is too low, the seasons (due to climate change) are unpredictable, and planning for a market that is ever changing and is sometimes 12 months in the future makes it a precarious undertaking indeed.

As with everything and it is no different in our food system, decisions based purely on financial gain with no regard for our environment are causing devastation to our planet.  

It is much easier for a large supermarket buyer to import cheap produce, grown abroad where labour is inexpensive and where very often the working conditions are poor, and the attention paid to biodiversity is scant than buy more expensive IRISH grown crops.  

I am glad we have you our customers and that we do not need to knock on supermarket doors to sell our produce.

Our harvest is overflowing, now we have parsnips, carrots, swedes, cabbage, leeks, celery, pumpkin, kale and Brussels sprouts, the last of the broccoli and the soon to start purple sprouting broccoli and the first time in 10 years we will have celeriac.

I think you might taste the flavour in your in your boxes, tell us if you do! You will also notice the size of all our crops, the warm September and a soil temperature that is 5C above normal means growth has continued well past when it should have slowed leading to bigger produce. 

The days are closing in now and the weather is wet and it should be cool, but as I write this, we have temperatures here in Galway of 17C and it is 8pm, is this climate change in action right here on our doorstep? 

Our promise is simple, “When you get a box from us you do not need to think about whether you are choosing sustainably, we promise you are”. 

Your support for us means our farm survives and thrives, our people stay in jobs, and we get to mind our little patch of land here in the West of Ireland sustainably.

Thank you

Kenneth

Quick Pickled Romanesco

Romanesco are the most stunning vegetables. Closely related to cauliflower and broccoli they can be used interchangeably in place of them in recipes. We have an incredible crop of them right now, in fact we have too many! The unseasonably warm autumn has meant our brassicas, which we hoped to harvest in the winter, are ready early! Will you help us prevent food waste by ordering an extra Romanesco or two with your next order? Why not steam and freeze some for a rainy day? Did you know that ensuring your freezer is always full makes it run more efficiently and use less electricity? Or another easy way to preserve the harvest is to make this delicious quick pickle.

This beautiful, pine-tree-like vegetable would be perfect on the Christmas table, and although ‘quick pickles’ don’t last as long as the canned variety, it should be fine for Christmas if you make some in the next few weeks. Just keep your jars in the back of the fridge. Delicious with crackers and cheese or on salads or stew, pickles are often that missing tangy ingredient.

Liz x

Ingredients

  • 1 romanesco, cut into small florets & the stem/core thinly sliced
  • 1 white onion, peeled & sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced
  • 1 tbsp each: black pepper, mustard seeds, ground turmeric (or your choice of pickle spices)
  • 600ml apple cider vinegar
  • 600ml water
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp salt

Method

  1. Sterilise enough jars to fit your vegetables. You can do this in a number of ways. I simply wash and rinse them then place them in a clean sink and fill up the jars and lids with freshly boiled water from a kettle. Leave to sit for a minute then carefully tip out the water (use oven gloves or a folded tea towel so you don’t burn your hands) and let the jars air dry.
  2. Divide the garlic and spices between the jars then fill up with the Romanesco and onion slices.
  3. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a pan until just boiling. Then pour the solution over the vegetables so that they are completely submerged. Make more of the vinegar solution if needed. It all depends on the size of your Romanesco!
  4. Immediately secure the lids on the jars whilst they are still piping hot. Allow to cool on the counter and then place in the fridge. They should be ready to eat in 3 days and will last well for 2 or 3 months.
Add some extra Romanesco to your next order.

Can We Afford Cheap Food?

During the week I had the privilege of speaking at a food waste event organised by Concern Ireland.

As children my mum instilled in us an ethos of never wasting food (or anything else for that matter), we were rightly or wrongly always encouraged to finish our dinner.  

To this day she finds it very difficult to stay away from our “waste shelf” in the packing shed. This shelf is where all the worthwhile graded out produce is made available to the packing team to take home.

Up until recently and for many, many years, my mum could be found in there sifting through all the waste produce and salvaging anything that was good enough, then filling her car boot and bringing it all over Galway to people who needed it.

Like my dad’s work ethic, my mum’s need to save the food must have been programmed in her genes!  Their generation was not one that could afford to waste food. Food took up a more sizeable percentage of their disposable income and so had a higher value. In our society today the idea that food is valuable has changed, and unfortunately not for the better. 

Food waste is a major global issue. If it was a country, it would be the third biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions!  Food produced on nearly one third of all agricultural land is thrown straight in the bin! 

Here in Ireland, we dump 50% of all the salads we buy and an amazing 25% of all fresh fruit and veg! 

1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year! This is an unimaginable amount, here in Ireland the figure is nearly 1 million tonnes, which contributes 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. 

These figures are staggering and bewildering but unfortunately not at all surprising. The cheap food culture engineered over the last five decades and evangelised by supermarkets has meant that we do not as consumers see value in fresh food. We expect it to be cheap. 

We expect it also to be shiny and picture perfect and uniform. Supermarkets actively discriminate against oddly shaped produce, or vegetables that are under or over spec. Our cabbage, the cabbage that you are getting in your boxes this week in a supermarket system would be graded out because they are too big!  

When I think of the land, and the planning and the work and the energy that is involved in bringing a crop to harvest it makes me feel angry and sad that somebody somewhere might consider that because of what a crop looks like it should be wasted. This is a system that has lost its way. 

Our food system is meandering dangerously close to it’s own undoing and as we stare into an uncertain future where climate change is playing a larger and larger part in our ability to grow food, eliminating food waste needs to be a priority. 

My mum’s relentless energy in making sure we as a business kept food waste to a minimum was one small part in a much bigger chain, but she played and continues to play an important part in at least keeping me on the straight and narrow and she never lets me forget that food is just too valuable to waste.

Needless to say, and as always (and I never get tired of saying it) your support for our business means that the issue of food waste will always be at the top of our agenda.

Thanks

Kenneth 

Simple, Real Food

Yesterday my daughter Ella went down the fields and harvested a big bunch of kale she wanted to make kale crisps. I was impressed, who am I to stand in the way of a child who wants to voluntarily eat kale, I thought to myself!

Mostly though it is the other way around, often getting our kids to eat more vegetables can be a struggle, why is this? Why isn’t eating an apple, (or indeed kale crisps) instead of a chocolate bar easier? Why is doing the right thing sometimes so difficult? 

Why is our food system not better, healthier, kinder to us and our planet. How did we get ourselves into this crazy retail race to the bottom and how come it is so hard to value and want to eat real food? 

Both questions are linked. I did a stent in a major pharmaceutical company in the US as a research scientist. A friend of mine at the time worked in the food division, occasionally she would bring cookies to lunch for us to try that had been engineered in her lab to within an inch of their lives. Texture, flavour, taste, and crumbliness had all been optimised in the lab to allow just the right amount of sugar fat and salt to hit our taste buds in the right way at the right time to make them irresistible.  

Many of the processed foods including health bars and vitamin drinks that line supermarket shelves are about as healthy as eating spoonful’s of sugar, generally they contain high amounts of processed apple juice or conventional cereal and sugar substitutes. They rely on wonderfully creative science and marketing to make us believe how good for us they are, and of course they taste amazing.

We are sold the idea of free choice, but the reality is that nearly all of the big brands on our shelves are made by 10 giant multinational conglomerates. An industry built on cheap commodity products wrapped and packaged and sold as healthy, driven by profit, derived from a complex unsustainable food chain produces most of our food and it is damaging our health and destroying the planet.

So how is this system fair? How is it that these processed products have taken centre stage and are often seen by us the consumer as a prized food that can be sold for maximum profit? This is the carefully constructed reality we have been fed, it is not our fault it is just the way it.

It is simple, cheap commodity ingredients are processed and packaged to be sold as healthy alternatives to real food, that achieve maximum profit for manufactures and retailers. 

Deciphering what is good for our health and the planet is next to impossible these days. But it doesn’t have to be so complicated. 

There is one extremely straightforward step any one of us can take right now to revolutionise our food choices, the principle is simple: 

“EAT MORE FRESH ORGANIC PRODUCE”

We cannot eat too many vegetables and vegetables in all their guises are good for us. That’s pretty simple right?

So, choosing fresh organic locally grown food and working more fruit and veg into our daily routine is a magnificent way to improve how we feel and our long-term health, not to mention the benefits for the planet. 

So, Ella, go for it, all the kale in the world is yours!

Kenneth

Get a box of real, simple organic food delivered to your door anywhere in Ireland or Northern Ireland here.

Food Waste

Hopefully we will all be doing what the carrots in this photo are doing soon!

Over the last 15 years we have seen a fair bit, and although generally things are never black and white, one thing stands out for me as being just that: food waste. Whatever way you look at it, it is wrong.

We work really hard here to reduce food waste, it is not always possible, but it is one of our core values. There are times when the quality just is not good enough and we will never ever compromise on the quality of what we send out in our boxes.

We grow our own food so we have a very good understanding of what is ok and what is not. We make sure we harvest as close to packing the boxes as possible, we work with other growers to ensure we have the freshest best produce. 

But there is one thing we never do, we never discriminate based on looks, on wonkiness. If a carrot is wrapped around another carrot will we grade it out? Absolutely not, we will CELEBRATE it, If a potato is showing a little cheekiness, well that is absolutely ok with us. In fact, we want vegetables like that.

This ‘WONKY’ food tastes the same, it has the same nutritional value, it looks the same on our plates it has been grown sustainably on organic land. It makes a lot of sense to us to NOT grade out vegetables like that. I guess we are pretty lucky that we do not have to conform to supermarket standards, that we set out own standards and we can do this because we know you our customers are ok with getting cheeky potatoes every now and again.

Ultimately, we appreciate this because we know how hard it is to grow food. Right now, as I write, this we are behind with our planting, the weather is not being very seasonal, it is to reach 2C tonight and the temperatures have been very disappointing for May and heading into June it is still wet and cold.

I hope we get a break soon, as we have plants backing up waiting to go into the wet fields, and the plants that are already in the fields are behind where they should be. It is hard not to feel a little anxious, will the weather ever give us a break? Every year it is has, and this year I hope will be no different, so, we wait and be patient, there really is very little else we can do.

So, as a farmer when you consider all the effort required to produce the food it would be extremely disheartening to think the end result might be your produce being dumped in a bin. We have designed a food storage fridge magnet flyer to help you in the first step to avoid food waste – correct storage and using your delicate fruit and veg first is key. It’ll be packed in all the boxes next week. We hope you find it useful! Read our blog about food waste here for more ideas on how to cut your food waste.

Many growers of course have these rules imposed on them by the people that hold the keys to the kingdom: the supermarkets. Food does get rejected based on appearance and this is something that gets under my skin, it is wrong for so many reasons.

Many growers of course have these rules imposed on them by the people that hold the keys to the kingdom: the supermarkets. Food does get rejected based on appearance and this is something that gets under my skin, it is wrong for so many reasons.

I believe we are promised warmth and full sun tomorrow and that is good, it means we can get on with the work of growing food, and that makes me happy. Our carrots when they come later in the season may not be perfectly perfect in shape, but they are prefect in every other way.

Thank you for supporting our farm and know that in doing so, not only are you contributing to reducing your carbon footprint, and reducing your waste burden on our planet, you are also contributing to reducing food waste and supporting these cheeky potatoes and loving carrots!

Thank you


Kenneth

Greenwashing

If you ever get a chance to watch ‘The Silver Branch’, an inspiring and beautiful story shot in county Clare, take it. It is a story of hope, the miracles of nature and honesty. 

There are moments and occurrences in our lives when we need to be reminded of what’s important , all too often these wake-up-calls pass us by in the busyness of life. This was one such moment for me.

It is the story of a man, a farmer, a poet and his connection with the land and nature. It was moving and beautiful and full of hope for the future. Hope is what keeps us going during the tough times.

After seeing the film, I had an urge to grab my children and bring them out into the fields to show them the beauty of nature. 

Nature is precious, and we are all called on to protect it. We share this planet with a vast diversity of living beings, and it is our obligation to tread softly and nurture the land. 

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as other creatures do.” – Barbara Ward

‘The Silver Branch’ is a true and authentic story about life, nature and hope. Stories like these are the real stories that need to be told. Uplifting, inspiring, honest and true. Our planet is in trouble and there is much work to be done and there are many good, small, ethical companies and producers doing their bit and playing their part to set things right. 

But to use the environmental problems that we are facing as a marketing tool to sell more, to increase sales and profits, to generate a false picture of doing right; using the greatest man-made crisis of our time to stamp green credentials on corporations and retailers with dubious intentions… there can be no greater travesty of truth and abuse of trust possible. 

It is greenwashing and it is wrong.

Abuse of the truth, however small, needs to be called out, because transparency and trust have never been more important. There is no greater challenge facing humanity than our ability right now to come together and to move to a present of less consumption, renewable energy and a food production system that protects nature. 

As Patrick McCormack’s plight in ‘The Silver Branch’ of saving the Burren from a visitor centre that would have destroyed the landscape seemed helpless, so it seems with climate change. He and a small group of committed individuals defied the powers of church, government and consensus to turn the tide and save the Burren and triumphed against the odds, driven by honest belief.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Meade

Thank you for being a part our our small group of committed citizens!

Kenneth

Order a one off or start a repeat order for a steady supply of sustainable, delicious fruit, vegetables and groceries here.

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.