Our Children & The Planet

I will never forget when myself Jenny and my dad put up our first polytunnel back in 2005. It was a milestone and like a dream come though, I will never forget it. 

We were so proud of ourselves, that was our first season growing food and we tried it all. We were so enthusiastic, we wanted all the plants in that little tunnel, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers. If truth be known there was very little harvest from that tunnel in the first year. We had plants but little enough of the fruits of our labour! Nevertheless, this did not discourage us in any way.

We were on a journey we had closed the door on a different chapter of our lives, lives lived far from the land and with little connection with our food. Certainly, there was always a burning deep desire to do the right thing by the environmentand this our mad chance to embrace that vision. 

It was two years later in 2007 that our first child was born and that was a momentous occasion. I do remember many things from that day, but one that I am sure most people do not experience on the birth of their first child was the doorbellringing (We had a home birth) and a guy that was fixing a fridge on our van wondering if he could talk to me about a problem he was having. I think the noise in the back round ended that conversation swiftly.

Then we watched Hannah grow and at the age of two she was able to go and pick her own tomatoes and cucumbers from the polytunnel. When Ella came along it was clear she was going to be our earth child and she spent more time in those polytunnels than anybody else, I am surprised we had any tomatoes left to harvest for you, our customers. 

In hindsight remembering those moments and appreciating them seems like it was a perfect and ideal life. There was of course plenty of smiles but there was all the other stuff too. We were guilty of having no time, no money, and no energy, it was truly exhausting, starting a farm, a business and a familyat the same time. I would recommend that if you are embarking on this journey that you spread those events out a little!

But we got through. The days when we have had schools on our farm, and you see the amazed face of a child when they pull a carrot from the ground it makes you remember what is important

The journey has certainly left its scars, but it has also allowed a deeper appreciation of what we have, how lucky we are. If nothing else seeing the respect Ella, Joe and Hannah have for the environment is something that I am proud of. If we achieve nothing else on this journey, we will have achieved something positive.

Our job here is to spread a message that nature and our land are beautiful and precious, and all living things are to be respected. We as a business, a farm and individuals really do have an obligation to take care with our actions. It is on us all, of course we can all point the finger but what good does that do? We need to take responsibility for our actions and do the right thing, is that easy? Absolutely not. Is it necessary?Completely. Therein I believe lies our greatest hope for our children and all that we share this land with.

Have a fantastic week and thank you for sharing our vision and for your continued support.

Kenneth

PS. Have you signed up to our new repeat order system yet? It’s the best way to never forget your order deadline. Head to the website and give it a try, any problems use the Chat button or send us an email and we’ll get back to you in normal office hours. www.greenearthorganics.ie

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

Sustainable Growth

During the week I had a very big decision to make and as with all big decisions it is never black and white. It may seem as you look in from the outside that it is, but rarely when looking in from the outside does one see the whole picture. But having a vision and idea of what is important can help make those decisions a little easier. 

We have spent 15 years this May creating a business from nothing. The team and the people who have come and gone over the years have worked hard, and there is no question in my mind that Green Earth Organics would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for these people, the long hours and hard work.

The farm and business have grown a lot over the last 15 years, and we are proud to say that a culture of empathy and respect has also grown. There will always be times when we do not get it right (and no doubt there has been plenty of them, more often than not some would say), but the intention of the business is genuine and pointing in the right direction.

The idea of environmental preservation and respect for our fellow human being has always been right at the heart of what matters here. This can sometimes get stretched when you are faced with the harsh financial pressure of the world of business, and it is true that out in this world the bottom line is all that counts. 

We would be forgiven then for thinking that profit and the bottom line is all that matters. But we would be wrong because therein lies the seeds of greed. It is this thinking that has landed the planet in the precarious situation it is currently in.   

And yet, it would be extremely naive to think that profit does not matter and that it is all about picking wild-flowers and lying in the long grass. Simply put, without a healthy, profitable business our little community would not exist.

I know, as does anybody who has ran a business (or a household for that matter), that there is constant pressure to succeed and deliver and that at times there can be intense financial pressure. But there can also be times of remarkable reward in feeling satisfied of a job well done or having done your best despite the odds.

Green Earth Organics was born out of the need to do right in the world and love for the land and our vision is pretty simple:

“Using food as a force for positive change by putting the well-being of our environment at the centre of every decision we make.  We believe that producing food with respect for nature and for the multitude of creatures we share this planet with is the only way to farm. We believe that we can do this by providing an alternative to the mainstream, by growing and providing healthy sustainable food, by conducting our business in an ethical and sustainable way, with respect for all at its heart.”

We could not do any of this if it were not for your support.

Thank you!

Kenneth

PS We have some amazing, exciting changes to tell you about.  We have listened to what you said and have reduced our minimum spend to €30, we have also added FREE delivery for all orders over €100 always – so stock up on your organic groceries with us and get everything you need delivered to your door in one, efficient delivery. Finally, you will see our website has changed and now you can create a regular repeat order and never forget to order again!

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

Our Food System Needs to Change

Hannah used to love broccoli and then she did not and to this day that has not changed. I do love broccoli. I tend to love all vegetables really, and it is a good thing seeing as I run an organic vegetable farm.

It never ceases to amaze me how much vegetable food you can produce per acre, and how many people that can feed. At the very same time it also never ceases to amaze me how much our food system needs to change; it is broken and here are the three fundamental reasons why:

1. There are too many of us eating a Western style diet. Food inequality is huge and we in the West eat way more than our fair share.

2. Growing feed for animals is not an efficient use of a limited land space. To feed a growing population we need to change what we grow and what we eat. We cannot continue to produce and consume the same food in the same way there simply is not enough space on earth. (I know we have two rescue pigs, and they are eating machines, we feed them waste vegetables, but if we had to grow all the food that they eat, we would need acres just to feed them. Using land to produce vegetables to feed people is a highly efficient use of land.)

3. The supermarkets facilitate the expectation of cheap food and they control the food supply chain. Their pricing practice makes farmers reliant on a subsidy system. Our grandparents spent nearly 20% of their disposal income on food, today it is less than 10%. The main beneficiaries of our food system are the supermarkets, large agribusiness and large food corporations, not us the consumer.

A long-term view is often difficult to reconcile with our daily challenges and life stresses (holding a screaming child for instance, Hannah was not always that picture of calm!) But the climate is changing, the sea levels are rising, biodiversity is failing and change is necessary now.

We can open our eyes if we choose to, and take responsibility for our choices, we have much more power than we realise. We can’t change the food system over-night, but we can take positive action right now.

It will always be better to eat local food. It will always be better for our countryside and our health to eat more organic food. It will always be better for our health and the health of the planet to eat less meat. Here is what we/you can do right now:

1. Get a box from us, we do things right.

2. Cook from scratch, see our blog here for inspiration, recipes, and videos.

3. Eat no/less meat and dairy. If u do eat meat make sure it is local and organic where possible.

4. Dump the plastic at supermarket tills.

5. Talk about climate change, spread the word.

6. Choose to buy a little more local and sustainable food when you can.

7. Stop spraying chemicals in your garden.

8. Start spending your money locally.

9. Buy less stuff.

10. Plant one tree in your garden.

“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

Kenneth

PS I know I am lucky I get to live and work on an organic vegetable farm, but we can all change our mindset and start seeing nature as an amazing resource that needs to be nurtured.

Barleyotto, Roasted Carrots & Carrot Top Pesto

I’ve been cooking so much with the gorgeous, super-fresh carrots from the farm recently. Carrots are one of those staple vegetables that often get overlooked as ‘boring’ and sent to the side of the plate or the base of the meal. I love elevating these humble vegetables and making them the star of the show. Once you taste the difference between watery, bland supermarket carrots and the real deal from the farm, you’ll see why I bang on about showcasing each vegetable in its own right.

Root to Shoot

I’m sure most of you already know that the carrot tops are edible too. In this recipe, and in many of my recipes, I show you how to make a meal using the whole vegetable, root to shoot! I hate waste, not just because I don’t have the cash to splash, but also because of the environmental impact. Did you know that reducing food waste has been identified as one of the most effective ways to fight climate change? According to Stop Food Waste, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. This directly contributes to food shortages, water stress, biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, more than one quarter of food produced is wasted: with food loss and waste contributing 8-10% of total emissions. So we should all do our part in reducing food waste by learning how to use the entire vegetable and putting as little as possible in the compost bin (and certainly never put food waste in the general waste heading for landfill). Apart from the environmental issues regarding food waste, it is surprising how much important dietary fibre and incredibly powerful nutrients are found in the peels and other parts of vegetables we often throw away. Good for your body, your pocket and your planet, what’s not to like?

Ingredients (to serve 4)

Method

Start by removing the leafy tops from the carrots. Roughly chop them and put them in a food processor with the blade attachment. Then slice the carrots lengthways into halves or quarters, put them in a roasting dish, dress them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and pop them in a hot oven (180C) to roast while you get on with the barleyotto/risotto.

Peel and dice the onion and start sautéing it in a heavy bottomed pan with a little olive oil. You could also add a knob of dairy free butter to the pan for extra flavour at this stage.

Dice the celery and garlic. Add 3 cloves to to the pot (along with all the celery) and one garlic clove to the food processor where you’ll make the carrot top pesto.

Season the onion, celery and garlic with a little salt and allow it to cook down and soften a little. Then add the mug of barley grains, the glass of wine (you can replace this with a small splash of cider/white wine vinegar or the juice of a lemon), the stock cube/bouillon and 3 mugs of water. (If you are using risotto rice, add the liquid gradually, stir often and allow it to soak in before adding more). Add the drained butterbeans and let the barleyotto simmer until the grains are cooked through. Stir regularly and keep an eye on the liquid levels, you may need to add more.

While the carrots and the barleyotto/risotto are cooking, focus on the pesto.

Toast the sunflower seeds in a hot, dry frying pan until they are fragrant and start to pop and colour. Then add them to the food processor with the carrot tops and garlic.

Add the juice of half a lemon or a tbsp of cider or white wine vinegar, a few tbsp of nutritional yeast (this brings an irresistible, rich, cheesy flavour to the pesto), a pinch of salt, some freshly ground back pepper and enough olive oil to blend the pesto into a bright green sauce. If you don’t have very many carrot tops you can also add some chopped kale or spinach to the blender.

Pulse the pesto until it comes together into a loose green sauce. Then taste it and adjust the seasoning if needed with extra salt, pepper, lemon juice or olive oil as you like and blend again until you are happy with the flavour and consistency.

When the barley or risotto is cooked through, taste it and check the seasoning, adjusting it if necessary. Then serve in bowls topped with roasted carrots and carrot top pesto. Any spare pesto can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to one week. Use it in sandwiches, to top crackers or dip vegetables in, stir it through pasta or drizzle it over steamed greens or roasted vegetables.

Enjoy! 💚 Liz

Did you make this recipe? Let us know how it went in the comments and share it with us and your friends on your Facebook or Instagram. We love to see the recipes leave the blog. If you like this recipe, you’ll love my book. And don’t forget to support your local, organic farmers here by signing up for a regular veg box delivery and adding our carefully curated groceries to your order as and when you need them. Thank you!