We Need Your Help

We need your help. We need to survive the summer we have so much local organic harvest from our farm and other small organic farms here in Ireland and we have seen our customer base disappear over the last 5 weeks.

It has been a never-ending rollercoaster and so difficult one week to the next to predict what is around the corner. It is in times like these that we especially need to know why we are doing what we are doing. The irony of course is at these very moments we lose focus and just holding it together is all we can do. At the same time, it can be this singular dedication to a cause greater than ourselves that keeps us going. 

The little idea that a small farm here in the West coast of Ireland could help fix this planet, help fix our food system is our “WHY”. 

It has been a tremendously busy week on our farm. We have planted 70,000 leeks, our final planting of winter brassicas isgoing into the ground today. As I write some 50,000 plants are being transplanted ,that brings to a total brassica count of nearly 150,000 plants. That is a lot of locally grown food, all done of course without chemicals.

Kornel and Patrick have done amazing work in our polytunnels where our 1000+ tomato plants and several hundred cucumber plants are finally bearing fruit. This is one of my favourite moments looking on the well organised tunnels and tasting the amazing tomatoes.

Emmanuel our farm manager and his team of field workers have been working so hard. At this time of the year, it always feels like we are teetering on the edge of losing control, but thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.

Over the last couple of weeks finally we have had the ideal growing conditions and that has meant harvest season has burst upon us.  It also means we have had the perfect mix of too much work, an abundant harvest, planting deadlines slipping away and weeds in hyperdrive, it is frantic and will be for another week or two.

Then there is the backdrop of the week just gone where we have the lowest orders in 18 months right slap bang in the middle of our best harvest season and our highest cost base (covering holiday time, a team of 10 people on the farm from 2 in February, an investment of 6 months and nearly €100k to get to the harvest season)

What we are harvesting right now:

  • Lettuce green and red
  • Rainbow chard and Spinach
  • Courgettes and cucumbers
  • Some tomatoes
  • Cabbage, Broccoli and Romanesco
  • Kale green and black
  • Radish and Salad
  • Beetroot

What we are sourcing from other small organic farms week

  • New season IRISH potatoes
  • Scallions, fennel courgettes and cucumbers
  • Mushrooms
  • Fennel and French beans

It is worth mentioning I think and especially as it is plastic free July that we were the first company in Ireland to make all our boxes plastic free, reuse being the essence of our delivery service.

We need your help, we need to survive the summer we need you if you can at all to place an order, to tell your friends, your family, or your neighbours, tell everybody, bring us with you on holidays or donate a box to charity.

Thank you so much for your support.

Kenneth

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

Vegetable Values

What do you think about a major supermarket sending 12 pallets of pineapples (nearly 12,000 pineapples) to waste because they had some blemishes, where is the right in that?

Thankfully, charities such as Food Cloud exist and they stepped in to rectify the situation in this case. If they did not exist where would this food go then?

Fresh food is so devalued by supermarkets, it makes me want to cry! It does not benefit the consumer, we think it does but ultimately it does not. How can a supermarket sell onions for 49c? It is not possible to grow a kilo of onions for 49c.

It is the retailers whether it be Tesco or Amazon that hold the keys to the kingdom, they set the prices, they hold all the power, and we the consumer give it to them. They only care about the bottom line driven by profit. But when the damage is done, when the soil will no longer produce the food, what good will all the money be then?

Did you know that supermarket buying practices force the last few cents from the farmer? New supermarket buyers get targets to improve margins, they go straight to the farmer and demand better discounts. Is it really any wonder that young farmers might be disillusioned with the trade? There is a strike next week by farm workers in Spain demanding fairer working conditions and wages, all of this is driven by our cheap food system.

This practice of selling produce below its value, once unthinkable, makes cheap fresh food acceptable in the eyes of the consumers, and how would we be expected to think otherwise? It is everywhere we look, it has effectively been normalised.

On our farm this year we produced just short of a quarter of a million-euro worth of produce. We broke even, and that is with the farm team working flat out, and having crops grow well, it was a good year. If we had to sell all our produce at supermarket prices, we would have been gone a long time ago, so would the jobs and the people.

Imagine, instead of a race to the bottom, a system that allows for investment in the farms, in the people on the farms, in the biodiversity. A system that does not allow 12 pallets to be dumped because of a blemish on a few pieces, that does not require workers to strike for fair working conditions.

All we need, is to say “no more” to loss leading fresh produce.

I do feel a little better now for getting that off my chest and thank you for listening.

Thank you for your support, thank you for buying our produce, thank you for supporting local jobs, thank you for supporting local food production, thank you for supporting sustainable food production and thank you for sticking with us all year.

You make our farm possible.

Have a magical and safe Christmas.

Kenneth

Franck Martinaud

One of the best parts of running an ethical, transparent business is having a good relationship with our suppliers. We are proud of the people and ethical businesses we support, so in this ‘About Us’ section of the blog we want to introduce you to them too, and get to know them a little better ourselves. Passionate people behind the products are a force for good in this world and we want to shine a light on them.

First up is Franck Martinaud who works with The French Market here in Galway. He has carefully selected the organic wines we sell and I spoke to him last week to find out more.

Tell me a little about yourself, how did you end up selling wine here in beautiful Galway?

“I am Franck Martinaud, representative in Galway for The French Market. I have been living in Galway since 2004 and spent 5 years in the London area prior to that. My wife is a Biochemist and she was offered a position in NUI Galway back in 2004. After a week’s holiday to see what we thought of the city, we went back home to Cambridge and packed up our bags. 2 months later, we had moved to Galway and don’t regret it. I was a trained video cameraman/journalist but did not have much work in Galway. One day, I went to buy a few bottles in a wine shop for my birthday party and landed a job. Since then, I have never looked back and love selling a product which is so diverse and representative of a place and the person who makes it. It was in this shop that I met Kenneth and Jenny for the first time when they were about to go into farming.”

Why are you passionate about organic wine in particular?

“I went to my first Organic wine fair in early 2007 and tasted some great wines but, at the time, prices were still high and the Irish focus on Organic products still in its infancy. Slowly but surely, the awareness has increased and Organic wines are nowadays widely available which is great. At The French Market, we work with small producers who are careful with their practice in the vineyard to try and protect the environment they live in and most of them are certified HVE (high environmental value) but working Organically is a step above and makes sense. It is all down to care and hard work but it usually pays off in the quality of the wines.”


Tell me about the wine we sell. Where does it come from? Why did you choose it? Are there any stand-out wine makers that we can’t miss? Which bottles are your favourites?


“You have wines from France, Italy and Spain with the addition of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The emphasis is on sourcing as close to home as possible. Ireland does not have the climate to grow vines commercially so we have to go south to source wines. I love the Cotes du Rhone villages for its great sun kissed red fruits flavours but also don’t mind a glass of Pinot Grigio from Settimo Podere in Italy. One of the pioneer of Organic wines in Italy, Settimo makes a Pinot Grigio to reconcile you with this grape varietal. It is rich with lovely notes of almonds, a world away from the blend Pinot Grigio so commonly found on the shelves. This producer is also constantly experimenting and makes PIWI wines, wines made from grape vines resistant to fungal diseases, which helps reduce treatments and preserves the soil from being compacted by tractors.”

Tell me about your favourite seasonal drinks. What do you open in mid winter, what is perfect in summer? Which bottle do you reach for when you are celebrating with friends? Which bottles are crowd pleasers? Which should be saved for really special occasions? Any tips for making simple, seasonal cocktails with the Prosecco?

“For me, wine plays an important role on the dinner table and I choose it according to the food we prepare or the mood I am in. Variety and discovery is my motto. I cannot see myself drinking the same bottle over and over again.

When I want an easy wine, I usually go for Prosecco but the Spanish Vinedo de la Vida Sauvignon is a great crowd pleaser and so easy to drink, if not too easy 😉

I love reds and I am fond of Nero d’Avola from Sicily or Cotes du Rhone. To pair with food and enjoy at Christmas or keep for a few years, Chateau Lamarsalle from the St Emilion area in Bordeaux is a fantastic wine with great aromas of black berries and a touch of vanilla from its barrel ageing.

If you want to make something fancy with Prosecco, add a strawberry or a raspberry in the glass and hey presto! At winter time, a slice of apple and a small stick of Cinnamon would do well with the apple flavours of the Prosecco. Our Prosecco is so good, it does not need any artifice to shine.”

Thank you Franck, for taking the time to talk to us about yourself and the wonderful products you have introduced us to! Liz

Let us know in the comments if you have a favourite from our wine selection here at the farm. And what do you pair it with? Did you know we are selling wine hampers for Christmas presents? Have a look at our selection here to gift the connoisseur in your life.

Liz Child

Kenneth has asked me to share my recipes, illustrations and writing on Green Earth Organics brand new blog and I am thrilled and honoured to be trusted with this task. I am new to this beautiful part of the world so I thought I should introduce myself. I’ll be adding more bios to this section of the blog soon so keep an eye out for those, but someone has to go first.

My name is Liz Child and I am a chef, illustrator, writer and a wannabe food forest farmer. I grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK with my family in ‘99 when I was 14. At 22, after completing my degree in Fine Art, I started a vegetarian cafe in Canterbury called The Veg Box Cafe with my husband Adam. We had a bit of a rollercoaster of a time during our 12 years of running the cafe, as is the way in the food industry, but we stuck with it and learned so much along the way. We sold the business in March 2020 so I could focus on my writing and illustrating and to follow our dream of moving to Ireland to start a mini food forest. The dream is to have a go at living as low impact a life as possible. As I write this we are still in the very early stages of trying to make that happen so watch this space to see how it unfolds.

I also wrote, illustrated and self published a cookbook last year based on the 12 years of honing my own brand of relaxed, instinctive cooking at the cafe. The book focuses on celebrating seasonal vegetables and is packed full of easy ways to make vibrant, wholesome meals from humble ingredients. It is a unique book, full of hand drawn recipes and is such a useful accompaniment to a veg box delivery scheme. You can add a copy to your delivery here if you like. I’ll be sharing recipes from the book as well as lots of new ones here on the recipe section of the blog too so look out for those. I’m particularly obsessed with fermenting every vegetable under the sun, so expect lots of funky ideas on how to make the most out of your brilliant veg boxes from Green Earth Organics.

At present I live in County Galway with my husband, 2 children and our scruffy spaniel, Rey. I split my time between looking after the kids, recipe development, flogging my cookbook, illustration jobs and managing the blog, and I try get away from the desk to get outside as much as possible. In my spare time I love walking, foraging and planting and dreaming about our future food forest retreat. You can follow me on Instagram or Facebook @cook.draw.feed for a behind the scenes view of the freelance cheffing/illustrating/writing/parenting mayhem that is my life.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over to you. Tell me about yourself in the comments. What are your dreams? What kind of recipes would you like me to work on for you? Are there particular ingredients you feel stumped with?

Liz x