The Rewards of Harvest

Lughnasa the Irish word for August represents the start of the harvest season and it is embedded in our culture and identity. It is a celebration of the harvest season, and both myself and Toby were having our own little festival in the field of clover here! 

By September we are celebrating the fruits of many months of labour in the fields it is the true month of harvest.

Growing and harvesting your own food can be so rewarding. Watching the small seedlings transform into robust healthy plants that provide food is truly one of the many miracles of nature. 

Sometimes, it seems that the food is an added bonus, and that the pleasure and the reward of working in the soil is enough. It feeds the soul.  Research has shown that putting your hands in soil can help ease depression and being outside cheers people up.

Rekindling that connection with our food and the land is something that is central to our identity.  

Our grand-parents knew what good food tasted like, they knew where their food came from and they knew how it was produced.

We have handed the control of our food to a handful of global corporations that run an efficient feeding machine, which has disconnected us from primary food production. Supermarkets have added a layer of separation that takes us another step further away from our food. In recent years they have seen the value in putting the smiling farmer on their walls in a weak attempt to give the impression that they are reconnecting us to our food.

We have relinquished not only this connection but the skills and ability to produce our own food.

We have become accustomed to the always available food culture, everything we ever need is always there on the supermarket shelves, plastic clad ready to be added to our shopping basket.

We have paid a high price for this choice and convenience.  

If you are honest, what do you know about the food you are eating today for dinner? Where was it produced? How was it produced? How were the people treated that grew it? Difficult questions and mostly ones that don’t cross our minds.

However, the answers to these questions will not only open our eyes, they are the key to a shift in what we eat and how we approach our food. They can also lead to a healthier you and crucially a healthier planet.

We are right in the middle of harvest season now and it is wonderful. If you ever wondered if you could manage to eat with the seasons, then now is your best shot. 

And if you don’t know why you might start eating seasonally here are the whys: 

  1. Reduce your carbon footprint massively.
  2. Get more nutritious food. Freshly harvested food has a higher nutrient content.
  3. Get an amazing taste experience “how food used to taste”
  4. Support real local jobs.
  5. Support the skills needed to grow our own food. 
  6. If it is organic you are supporting a system of food production that enhances biodiversity rather than degrades it.

So as with the traditional feast of Lughnasa why not get some good local food in, and celebrate the beautiful bounty of your gardens and our fields by a simple meal with family and friends. 

Kenneth

Get a beautiful box of organic veg delivered to your door here.

Don’t Look the Other Way

How often do we look the other way? How often do businesses and governments look the other way? Which is worse? Not knowing, or knowing and doing nothing?  As they say ignorance is bliss.

But what about re-framing that idea? What if we know something is good for our health our soul and the planet and we choose that path? What if that means we do the right thing because of the knowledge we have, then we are travelling down a very bright road indeed.

Ella went foraging for blackberries yesterday evening. She felt great for being outside in nature, she felt great for the satisfaction and the pure pleasure of finding and harvesting them and her health will certainly thank her for eating them. She did the right thing, she may not have thought about it much, but she felt it.

On our organic farm we have left the brambles, they provide wonderful homes for all sorts of life and their blossom is an early source of food for the bees, the best advice given to many conventional farmers is to spray burn and clear them! Why I say?!

We as farmers can do the right thing too, mostly we have the knowledge (although the food system and many professional advisers lead farmers down a factory farming and chemical laden approach to food which is unnecessary and inhumane) so hiding in ignorance will not wash.

At the other end of the scale, we have the conscious deception by multinational agribusinesses and large food corporations with billions at stake. They certainly have the knowledge and the resources to do the right thing, and yet they actively engage in measures to create a food system that involves not only looking the other way but one that damages our planet and our health while intentionally misleading consumers about their food choices.

Martin Luther King’s famous quote was most probably not targeting these corporations, but it is fitting in this context.

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the week-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

Martin Luther King Jr.

There is so much we can do to reengage with a positive food culture. Building a positive healthy eating routine is the first step.  Taking a closer look at what we eat and where we source our food can transform our diet and collectively help transform our world.

There is little doubt that eating more organic vegetables and fruits sourced locally is the very best thing we can do for our planet and our health.

So, step out into nature, and if you do get the chance, blackberry season is upon us, it is short, so grab a bowl or two and get picking. They freeze amazingly well and are a fantastic addition to smoothies.

Kenneth

Explore our range of sustainably grown and sourced fruit, vegetables and groceries here. We deliver to every address in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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.

Weed Control & Roundup

Over the last couple of months, I had forgotten how grounding growing food is. On a sunny day or sometimes even better on a wet and windy day walking through the crops, or sampling the fresh harvest, leaves you feelingconnected to the land and alive.  It is easy to forget all of this.  
 
These days it’s very difficult to know how the food we eat is actually produced. How could we be expected to know?  Life is so busy, and supermarkets give us a shiny happy reality that is often disconnected from the real food production processeshidden behind the scenes. 

The end of the growing season is a mad rush it always is and just when you think you are finished you discover you are not. We have finished planting, but the weeds have marched on relentlessly. This warm humid weather is ideal for cropgrowth but also for weed growth. 

This year our work apart from one or two mishaps has kept pace with the weeds. But our approach to weed control is notone of total dominance, quite frequently once you get the crops to a certain size the weeds are no longer a problem. 

In fact, they can provide a basis for a wide variety of life: flowering weeds that bees come to, the lush green undergrowth, a haven for a myriad of tiny creatures that would not be there otherwise. 

Thus, in turn providing food for the birds, and at times, the necessary predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies that feed on aphids. A natural ecosystem living below the giant shading leaves of the broccoli plants or cabbages develop. Each plant brings something different to the fray and generally none are unwelcome.

Now please do not misunderstand me, if we did not take a pragmatic approach to weed control and utilise all the tools at our disposal there would be no crops, no food, and no farm. We have worked extremely hard to ensure the crops are healthy and weed control is part of the process. No, our approach is just different, less harsh and embraces the idea that yes, we can work with these other plants, and they too have a place on our farm. 

Conversely conventional farming relies on the iron fist of chemicals to control weeds, there is no room for negotiation here, the chemicals are designed to disrupt metabolic pathways in plants, they are generally systemic in nature (get absorbed into the plant and reside there after application, all the way up the food chain onto our plates), the weeds are removed, and the residues of the chemicals remain in and on the food. Just look at the side of any road sprayed with roundup, it is ugly and yellow and dead. 
 
Using chemicals to fight nature will never work. In the short term it may give a temporary reprieve from a certain disease or pest, but that pest will come back stronger and more resistant next time. It is in a way a self-perpetuating industry.It is not the way and IT IS CERTAINLY NOT OUR WAY.

Organic agriculture is much more than saying no to the use of chemicals, it represents a holistic approach to working with nature, to our land and to our food. It means no chemicals, but it also means no artificial fertiliser, it means tree planting, it means hedge planting, it means allowing nature its place to thrive while also producing food. It means taking care of the soil and it means producing food that tastes fresh and good and crucially is good for us and for the environment.

Here’s to fresh organic food!

Kenneth

PS: It is a strange time, normality is creeping back into our lives, kids are going back to school as are ours, routines if there are ones will be re-established. It has been a strange year, some things are certainly outside of our control, but we can control what we eat. Keeping good healthy fresh food in our fridge, means we are more likely to use it, and this means we will eat healthier and feel better, as we head into autumnaldays this is one sure positive step we can take.

Bounty of the Land

For the bounty of the land, we need to be thankful. My mam used to insist on us all saying a thank you for the food before we ate any meals, especially the special meals at Christmas and Easter. She had the right idea; to stop and think and appreciate our food is something that we rarely do in these busy times but taking stock can be a very good thing to do. 

Our food decisions have such massive implications for our health and our planet, there probably isn’t anything more fundamental we can do that is within our control than make good food choices. I guess you could argue that “good food choices” are subjective. I would argue that maybe they arenot, we all know the difference between eating processed junkfood and a healthy apple, that is not subjective, but it goes so much further.

The questions around food choices are many. Do we reduce our meat intake, or do we choose not to eat meat at all? Will we choose local or imported? Organic or conventional?Fairtrade or not? I guess at this stage we know a thing or two about food, we have been growing it for 15 years commercially, and this is my grandad’s farm and he also used to grow his vegetables organically.

We choose, plants, organic, sustainable, Fairtrade and local (where possible), we choose life (To paraphrase a very famous film!) 

My take is simple, and it is the cornerstone of our farm and business: do what is right, don’t use chemicals, work with nature, plant trees, keep bees, grow only vegetables, use natural fertiliser and green manures, rest the land and grow and harvest healthy sustainable food.

It is ultimately a no brainer, fresh organic food, is more nutrient dense, is tastier and you only get what you see, no hidden chemicals. People often ask why some conventional vegetables keep for so long? Well, if you take citrus fruit for example, they are coated in a chemical wax to preserve them they can last for ages, you will not find any hidden unseen chemicals in or on our food. 

Right now, we are slap bang in the middle of the best local IRISH harvest season, it is the time of local vegetable plenty.This is the culmination of our year’s work, and we are rolling in produce so much so that we don’t have enough homes for all our broccoli and courgettes. But we have come up with some great ways to move it on and to say thank you too for supporting us, next week all set boxes will get a free extra portion of courgettes, so enjoy!

Right now, we are harvesting: Kale green, Cavelo nero,cabbage, broccoli, Romanesco, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, lettuce, salad, carrots, fennel, beetroot, spinach, radish. We also have IRISH scallions, onions, new potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, yellow courgettes, it’s a long list. 

My absolute favourite thing to do right now is to go to our polytunnels and pick my own tomatoes for lunch, they taste amazing, they are grown right here in Galway, and you will not get better. They are in all the boxes next week, and a little trick to bring out the flavour is to eat them at room temperature not straight from the fridge.

So yes, we are thankful for the bounty, and we are also thankful for your support to make a real sustainable commercial organic vegetable growing enterprise a reality right here in Sunny Galway.

Kenneth

Have a look at our range here.

Plastic Free July

As plastic free July draws to a close I find myself thinking a good deal about the plastic packaging that the supermarket system of food retailing demands. 

There were some pretty serious promises made by large retailers to appease consumer demand after David Attenborough’s blue planet documentary in 2017. Big business has become tremendously adept at hijacking good causes to improve the bottom line. This green wash, jumping on the band wagon and making promises that all too frequently are not kept is not good enough. It is dishonest and large retailers need to be held accountable.

Single use plastic in our food system,  chemicals in our food chain, animal welfare, and of course the biggest issue of our time, climate change, are not marketing devices to be used to improve profitability. These issues need to be tackled, they need to be taken very seriously and big business could be part of the solution, why would they not be? Ultimately being part of the solution will pay large dividends in the end both for the businesses and the planet. But those involved in green washing need to be taken to task for broken promises. 

I am well aware of the argument that plastic is necessary to reduce food waste and there is some merit in this.  But it is not a statement to hide behind. The statement too that ‘we have tried loose fruit and veg but consumers choose the plastic packs’ is not good enough either. Look at France, the majority of fruit and veg is sold loose or in compostable packs.

Any system takes time to change and rather than making empty promises, these large multiples could be investing in their farmers to help them change and switch to different packaging, paying a fairer price for the produce would obviously help too. Ultimately of course that may mean a little more for your cucumber or pack of carrots but is that really a bad thing? Our compostable bags are four times more expensive than their plastic counterparts. 

Ultimately the plastic clad supermarket aisles are a product of a food system that maximises profit for the end seller: the supermarket and nothing more. 

As far as I can see nothing has changed in the last 5 years. if anything there is more plastic on the shelves now than there was 5 years ago when many of these pledges were made.

I remember looking at compostable bags back in 2006 but back then the materials could not be had. In 2018 we were the first company in Ireland to make all our fixed boxes plastic free and over 95% of all the fresh produce we sell is plastic free and will remain that way. Our plastic free grocery aisle continues to grow. But more than any of that our whole farming model is based around our reusable boxes that we collect and reuse each week. 

Your support has enabled this, thank you!

Kenneth

Here are all our links if you’d like to place an order or enter our competition to win an Irish plastic free box 👉 linktr.ee/greenearthorganics

A Plea

Last year at the end of June I asked for your help, and I was humbled by the level of support we received. It is always with a great sense of irony that we head into July. It is the official end of the hungry gap. We are catapulted from a frenzy of farming activity and a dearth of harvest in early June to a level of activity bordering on the insane and an overflowing harvest basket. July is the time when we have a plentiful harvest, and it is the very same time that many of you break your routine with cooking. The last year has been difficult for all, and we all need a break, a break from the routine and lockdowns. 

This summer is proving to be the biggest challenge yet. We have increased our planting rates; we have developed relationships with other local organic farms and now when the time of Irish plenty arrives we find that you our customers are leaving us for all the usual reasons, holidays, not cooking, routines out the window and we understand completely. But the downturn this summer for us has been sharp and severe over the space of three weeks we have seen the level of ordering drop off dramatically, this is leaving us with so much surplus harvest with nowhere to go but back into the ground. 

This time of every year we also see a large increase in labour costs as we are now up to 11 people on the farm (all local lads this year which is amazing) and we have also hired many new packing staff to cover the extra work over the last few months and to cover holidays. It is a double downturn for us, as our costs go up dramatically and our sales go down dramatically. Anybody will tell you this is not a good way to run a business. The initial start of this growing season on our organic farm, seeds, plants, fertiliser (organic), compost, contractors and labour are very high, before you harvest even one bean. All of this is necessary to make the food in the fields happen.

Growing food at the best of times is not a money-making enterprise, far from it, we only ever expect the farm to break even and most years this is a stretch to achieve. We grow the food, because we love to do it, because sustainable agriculture is something we strongly believe in. We have PV cells generating our electricity, we have just invested in our first zero emission electric van, we collect our rainwater, we plant trees, and hedgerows, we use only plastic free packaging. We educate people on how important biodiversity is, and to get everybody involved in thinking about the planet and the environment, where our food comes and how it is produced is our critical philosophy.

All of this takes time and energy, it all costs money and at the end of the day although everybody wants to enjoy their job and although nearly everybody that works with us believes in our values and our mission, they still need to get paid.

So this is a plea, a plea to ask you to order next week, to find a way (if you can at all) to continue supporting us over the summer, to tell your friends and family to order from us, or if you can’t to pay your box forward to our Charity (Foodshare Kerry), just order a charity box online that we top-up with extra produce from the farm.

The boxes this week are loaded with the most amazing fresh local Irish organic produce, including, spinach, salad, lettuce, romanesco, cucumbers, kale, scallions, some even have new IRISH organic potatoes. The weather is meant to be hot so we figured a good helping of salad would be very much appreciated. So please if you can at all do order. Your support as always is very much appreciated.

Thank you!

Kenneth

PLACE YOUR ORDER HERE

It’s Our Birthday!

15 years ago, on the 26th of May 2006 we delivered our first thirty boxes. In truth the journey began long before that in the endless summers working with my dad in our vegetable garden. 

It has been an epic journey one that has pushed us right to the edge on many occasions, but it was our founding vision for the business which never changed, and never will that got us through. 

“To protect the environment and improve people’s health by inspiring people to reconnect with their food and how it is produced.”

If not for our vision we would have quit, I have little doubt of that, it was just too hard, we didn’t have the know how to grow food, we didn’t know how to run a business, we didn’t know how to deal with customers, in essence we didn’t really know what we were doing at all, but we knew WHY we were doing it!

In our first year we had a visit from the local Garda to check that we were growing ‘only’ vegetables in our new ‘fancy’ polytunnel, if you know what I mean. We were told by several people that we were crazy (we were), it couldn’t be done (it could), that you had to use Roundup (you didn’t), that it would be so hard (it was, still is) that we would be better off going back to our jobs (we never considered it and we had very good jobs!). 

At the same time, it was the encouragement of our friends and family and our early team members that pulled us through on the dark days, and made the bright days seems all the brighter.  My Dad helped us so much, he never said no, was always there, he entrusted us with his dad’s farm.

In the early days Jenny and I and my dad did it all, we packed, we farmed, we harvested, we delivered, we raised a family, we build a house we went through some pretty intense and harrowing times. We seem to have survived a major recession and year on year growth and here we are today 15 years later, who would have thought?

Now our team has grown there are nearly 40 individuals supported by our business.

In the early days many decisions were taken without due consideration or analysis, there simply wasn’t the time or the resource for it, it was a go with your gut feeling, take a chance, plant a new crop, take on a failed business, build a new packing shed, invest in solar panels and rain-watering harvesting, expand our farm, add new employees, just do it. 

But always there was the idea that we were doing this for a bigger cause, something that was so much bigger than any of us, something that was worth going through the pain for.

Now it is you, our customers, you are our supporters now. You supported us when we needed it most, you support us now, you are contributing to our continued success, you are contributing to so much more, because in the end you are supporting our vision. Which I guess is also your vision and we need you, and the planet needs you more than ever before. 

The reality is you can make a difference, your decisions do make a difference, your voice can change the world, your support allows us to continue doing all the things we do, so THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH, we couldn’t have done it without you, and we look forward to another fantastic 15 years!

Kenneth

Support our small, sustainable business by setting up a repeat order here of the tastiest organic fruit and veg we can grow and source. We source locally when in season, then from our organic farm contacts from further afield. We never airfreight! Add organic groceries to your order for convenience, we deliver to every address in Ireland!

Rekindling our Connection with Food

Bees and other pollinators enjoying the kale we leave to flower each year

The art of producing food is marvellous and tough, and on sunny days it is a privilege.

We talk about food all the time here, we grow it, we sow the seeds, we watch the plants grow, we fertilise the soil, we control the weeds and hope we have the right mix to ensure the plants grow healthy and pest free.

We spend the time in between managing the crops, maintaining the land, planting trees, growing hedging, sowing wildflowers for the bees, harnessing the power of the sun, these are all things we do.

We see first-hand the connection between the fresh produce and the cooked food on our plate. We can see how the process of growing healthy food from healthy soil creates local employment and impacts on our locality positively. Sustainable agriculture is good for all and it benefits the environment immeasurably.

Natures’ pest control – a healthy balance on predators and prey naturally occurs on organic farms

We see more bees, and flies, and insects on our farm and we feel there is a balance as we rarely see an out-of-control pest issue. We see more birds, and wild life, we see the land thrive, just this week I saw a giant hare saunter past one of our polytunnels.

Not only that, but organic food is so much better for us, of course it hasn’t been sprayed and so is free of harmful chemicals, but it is also just better nutritionally.

Weed burning rather than spraying chemicals before we plant out this years’ crops

A comprehensive study carried out by David Thomas has demonstrated a remarkable decrease in mineral content in fresh produce over 50 years, comparing food grown in 1941 to food grown in 1991. To the extent that today you would need to eat 6 apples to get the same nutritional value you got in 1941 from eating 5 apples. In some cases mineral levels have dropped by as much as 70%.  

The use of highly soluble fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and the intensive production of food has led to land that is lifeless and food that is less healthy and less nutritionally dense, this reflects the remarkable connection between our food and the health of our soil. 

There is no way we could know this, as a population we are in danger of losing our connection with the land and our food. This is not our fault, the food system that is championed by supermarkets and giant food producers has made it this way. 

Imagine though if we could see the impact of our positive choices, if we could somehow rekindle that connection with our food? Over the past year it seems we have been remaking that connection.

We are reconnecting with our food by cooking and touching and smelling and seeing how our food is grown. We are redeveloping that connection with nature and this is something we can pass onto our children, we can show them that there is a great, fun and fantastically positive way to live and eat. Although from what I have seen recently it is the children who are teaching us!

Kenneth