Growing Food is Grounding

The planning and preparation must begin now for the year ahead. We are still harvesting many of the root crops from last years planting which is providing us with good healthy Winter sustenance. January is the time of year that calls for hearty warm food, food that feeds both body and soul. Eating with the seasons fulfils something more primal than just hunger, innately it feels like the right thing to do.

‘Seasonal eating’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘climate breakdown’ – these buzz words are all linked. What we choose to eat has a massive impact on the environment. In these dark days, is it possible to choose seasonal sustainable food that will improve our wellbeing and maybe make these dark days seems that little bit brighter?

Whether you love sprouts or hate them they are the king of Winter vegetables and, like many of their Winter cousins, their taste is enhanced by cold. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, leeks, cabbage green and red, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and swede are all amazing seasonal stars and our parents and grandparents would have enjoyed them all long before a red pepper ever graced our tables. The Irish climate has always favoured these crops, they thrive in low light and cold conditions and we seem to naturally gravitate to these foods in the colder months. This is all very good news for both us and the planet.

Although there is no arguing that food is a personal choice, is it possible that our individual freedom is coming into conflict with a personal and environmental health crisis? Our freedom to choose is limitless. But as we head into the new year, could we make a change and choose to be more mindful of where our food comes from? How it is produced? What is it packaged in? Breaking routines of convenience can be hard, we are all busy and it takes persistence, courage and discipline to maintain a new course, but if this year gone by has shown us anything, it is that routines can change overnight and new, better habits can replace them. Here are 5 achievable guidelines to help you tread a more mindful path with your food choices.

  1. Eat Local, Seasonal, Organic Food – in supermarkets look at the country of origin, choose Irish. Visit farmers markets that sell local and if possible organic food. Get a box of seasonal organic food delivered by us.
  2. Eat Less Meat – enjoy planet healthy whole-foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and grains. We have a great organic range of dried and tinned whole-foods in our grocery section.
  3. Avoid Plastic Clad Produce – buy loose in the supermarket if possible. Leave the packaging behind in the supermarket. Did you know that all our set boxes are plastic free?
  4. Cook From Scratch – this gives you more control over the source of your ingredients, and it can be very satisfying! Cook in batches which saves enormous amounts of time. We provide recipes in all our boxes and Liz over on our new blog provides easy to follow instructions to make great dishes.
  5. Grow Your Own – Spring will be upon us soon, and this satisfying act can rekindle a very basic respect for our food.

Here’s to a brighter and more mindful new year!

Kenneth

As always, our online shop is ready for your orders. Subscribe to a weekly fruit and veg box for ease, or build your own box. All the details on our website here. Thank you for your support.

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

Learning from the Past

Simone, our fantastic photographer, doing daily rounds on the farm snapped this lovely robin on our kale this week.

So much has changed in one generation.

I had the good fortune during the week to be brought on a trip back in time, back 80 years! A while back a very kind customer took the time to send me a paper clipping from 1939 featuring an article on seasonal vegetables.

Imagine food produced without artificial fertilisers, without toxic chemicals, not wrapped in plastic, produced locally. Our ancestors did not contribute to the mass of plastic pollution choking our planet. Plastic didn’t exist. My grand dad would have grown his own veggies, and if he didn’t grow it, he would have bought them in the local market or in a green grocer. Supermarkets didn’t exist back then. There was no such thing as Roundup the food was clean. Fresh produce was highly valued, it was not discounted, loss leading was not a thing.

Today we live in a world of, ‘everything and anything all the time’. It is amazing to have such choice, but there is a cost, a cost hidden behind the plastic: the chemicals, the exploitation of workers, the clearing of rainforests, the destruction of habitats, the pollution of our oceans. The list goes on. Supermarkets have played a massive part in this, but they are serving a need driven by us their customers.

Life seemed much simpler in my grandad’s day, life was certainly tougher, food was scarce at times, but the food was clean, healthy and did not leave a trail of pollution and destruction behind. We don’t need to return to a land of scarcity, but maybe a mindset change to see value in fresh food is required it is after all the building blocks that we put into our bodies every single day.

A particularly good quote that I enjoyed :

“The majority of people, unfortunately, are much too disinterested in their need for vegetables and salads to take serious steps to obtain the best value for money” “Fresh green or root vegetables….should be the staple part of every family dinner”

Being out in the rain and wind, harvesting leeks and pulling parsnips, is no fun, and it takes a certain calibre of person to persist with this work well into the winter. But this is seasonal food, this is the reality of local food production. The smell of freshly harvested parsnips, is quite frankly amazing, covered in muck they feel alive and real and you get the feeling that just by holding them in your hand you are doing something positive for the planet!

Producing good clean food, while respecting the ground beneath our feet that gives us so much deserves to be valued. Because if we don’t value and respect the earth, then there will not be much left for the next generation to enjoy. I think food production has such potential to change our lives, to change the way we eat, to change how we work, to change our world.

Here’s to learning from the past!

Kenneth

PS All our fixed boxes are plastic free and that includes our Christmas boxes * and have been since 2018!

*The Mossfield IRISH organic cheese in the bumper box is wrapped in a plastic film.

Thanks From a Little Robin

The money you spend in a local business generally goes back into the locality. It is often the unforeseen and indirect ways in which that support matters, take Green Earth Organics today.

Recently we have collaborated with two local small businesses. Rachel who now makes chutney and cranberry sauce for us and Liz who now writes our recipes on our blog. In the last week we have had dealings with our IT support company based here in Galway, our two web developers one based in Athlone and one in Cork, our electrician and plumber based in Galway. Our van company based in Dublin, our tractor mechanic and van mechanic in Galway. I am just out of a meeting with our accountant, he lives locally. A couple of local builders and steel workers help us out regularly, our agricultural contractors, and the purchases we make in the local hardware stores and shops all send the money back into the locality. Not to mention all the IRISH suppliers we buy from weekly and of course our employees. Here is an interview Liz did with Franck from the French market.

Your purchase today or tomorrow pays for all of this. It is also a well-known fact that a greater percentage of money spent in a small business stays in the locality, while money spent in big retailers disappears into investors pockets, and we know a little bit about dealing with supermarkets. A few years back we stopped supplying supermarkets, we had had enough. Despite what their marketing blurb might say their treatment of growers is the same. The price of produce on the supermarket shelves often does not reflect the real and true cost of food. The lower the price the more that has been extracted for less, from the land, the worker, the farmer and sometimes from all three.

To survive, the modern-day farm needs to expand, it needs to take on debt, it needs to push the efficiency of the animals and the land to the brink. Intensification it seems is the only route to viability. Disillusioned with the industry today, a career on the land is not generally what a young person aspires to, and who would blame them? The traditional model of the family farm is, we are told, “unsustainable”. Our government and the powers that be are insistent that the best way forward for food, is large scale intensification. Supermarkets are putting more and more distance between the farmer and the consumer, it is now impossible to understand where our food comes from our how it was produced.

While the conventional system ignores the true cost of food, and is driven by supermarket dictated prices, the sustainable food movement aims to value food fairly, create a connection between growers and consumers and reward those involved in the production fairly according to their input. Your decision to support us is supporting an idea, a sector, a farm, individual’s livelihoods, biodiversity, the soil, the environment, and other sustainable businesses. You are sending a message to the powers that be that you believe there is a better way and crucially you are taking positive action for a more sustainable future.

Thank you

Kenneth

PS our Christmas shop is now open! Treat your loved ones to some real, honest food this year with a box of organic fruit or veg and have a look at our lovely selection of hampers. Please get your Christmas week pre-orders in soon to avoid disappointment.

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.

A Green Earth Christmas

I think it’s safe to say that this Christmas we are all in need of a little extra cheer. So we have put together some really lovely gift ideas for you and hope to take a little of the stress out of your Christmas shopping.

Buy yourself a treat or get us to deliver a box of goodness to a loved one. We deliver nation wide. You could even get us to deliver to wherever you’ll be over the holidays. Get preordering now here and do bear in mind that, as Christmas day falls on a Friday this year, there will be some changes to your usual delivery days – so please get organised for that now. We would hate to disappoint any of our wonderful customers so please do get in touch with any amendments, delivery address changes, add-ons and more sooner rather than later.

All the details can be found on our X-mas tab.

As well as beautiful boxes of festive fruit and vegetables which, if you preorder, will arrive on the week of the 21st December, you can also order a carefully curated hamper from us. We have put together a few selections to suit you. And as an added bonus, all our hampers come in one of our beautiful tote bags. How about this popular chocolate and wine hamper?

Or a vegan hamper filled with our favourite plant based products? That fermented cashew-cheese has to be tasted to be believed!

For the localvore in your life we have an Irish hamper. That Achill Island sea salt is award winning, flakey perfection and we love that it comes in a cute glass jar! So may ways to re-use it.

Are you after some special pantry products for the discerning foodie in your life? Try our pantry eco hamper. The Olvia Greek olive oil is so delicious and goes perfectly with the balsamic vinegar for a simple-but-sophisticated salad dressing.

And there are many more easy options on our X-mas tab. We also offer gift vouchers if you would like to introduce someone to us or to pay for their next delivery.

From all of us here at Green Earth Organics, we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for your support, it means the world to us.

Beneath our Feet

One teaspoon of soil contains more living organisms than there are people in the world!

They are the hardworking, unsung heroes of farming. I always knew these creatures were spectacular, but I had no idea they lived for so long or could do so much. I would go so far as to say that they are as important to our food production as the bees, we ignore their welfare at our peril. Charles Darwin thought they were important enough to spend 40 years studying them! You don’t hear so much about them, you don’t see them and I suppose they aren’t quite as photogenic as the honey bee, but they are extremely important and I love them. What am I talking about?

 If you haven’t guessed already, it is the humble earthworm. Earthworms live for about 7 years, and in their lifetime will compost about 7 tonnes of organic matter! These amazing little creatures take organic matter in the soil and convert it into food and nutrients for plants, by way of the worm castings they leave behind. They help aerate the soil, which allows for better water filtration and oxygenation of the soil for other microbes to thrive. This aeration prevents water logging and increases fertility. In a nutshell we would be in a pretty bad place without our underground friends. The soil beneath our feet is thriving with a beautiful complex interconnected myriad of life.  It is a shame, that many of the methods used to grow food in today’s large industrial agricultural system end up destroying the very biological organisms we rely on to sustain our environment.

It is hard not to bring the debate back to glyphosate. It is everywhere and in everything e.g. in non-organic food, wine, beer, in tap water, in urine and it has even been recorded in breastmilk. So much of the stuff is used and with such frequency that it is compromising our health and the health of our food chain and ultimately our planet. Glyphosate is toxic not only to the plants it kills, and the humans which consume the plants but also to earthworms. At least 6 studies have shown that glyphosate is damaging to earthworms, reducing their reproductive rates and reducing the rate at which they turn soil over. Earthworms have chemoreceptors and sensory turbercles on their skin giving them a high degree of sensitivity to chemicals and they avoid soil contaminated with glyphosate.

We can learn a lot from these little creatures. They quietly go about their work, improving our soil, helping us grow food and they know instinctively that glyphosate is something to be avoided. Maybe society should take a leaf out the earthworm’s book and avoid glyphosate too. The good news though is that organic farming does not use glyphosate (or any chemicals) so by buying our produce, you are not only helping the environment, but your own health too! 

Kenneth

PS Thank you for your continued support, we really appreciate it! All our boxes are organic and plastic free and we also have a great range of organic groceries that you can add to your fruit and vegetable order here.

Gift Guide

The Irish Ethical Consumers Gift Guide 2020

“When you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance!”

There’s no denying how quick and convenient it is to do your gift buying on Amazon. Getting everything and anything you can think of sent to your door at the click of a button is incredibly convenient. But I think we can all agree that lining the pockets of billionaires is killing small businesses and stealing the soul from our communities. As well as giving our local economy a well needed boost, when we shop local we are generally supporting people who actually care. Small business owners are passionate people. Unlike in huge corporations, small businesses owners care about providing you with really brilliant things, they care about their staff and they care about the environment. They also pay their taxes properly, which benefits everyone! 


Of course Amazon isn’t the only problem, just the best example of the type of business we need to avoid. There are countless big clothes shops, electronics shops, toy shops and cosmetic shops, all trying to get our attention with the cheapest, most convenient, shiny new thing. I love that saying, that every cent spent is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. As people aiming to be ethical consumers, we look at all the issues surrounding our purchasing. We no longer simply ask ourselves, ‘what do I want and how much does it cost’, but, ‘Where does it come from? Who made it? How was it made? How were they paid? What materials were used? Where did they come from? How long will it last? What will happen when it breaks or wears out? Where will it end up? Why do I want this?’ and perhaps most importantly, ‘Do I actually need this?’

I’m new to this beautiful part of the world, and moving here during a pandemic has meant we can’t go to lovely markets and fairs and meet local makers and growers in the way we would like to. So I’ve been researching some alternative, online, local options for the festive season and put together this little gift guide that I’d love to share with you. I would also love to know your recommendations too please. Let me know in the comments about your best ethical finds online, your local artist or crafts person, your favourite gift you’ve received or given. If you’re reading this on Facebook or Instagram then please also tag them in the comments so we can all support small, ethical, local people and businesses who care.

Shop Small, Shop Local, Shop Sustainable, Shop Secondhand and share the love by tagging brilliant gift givers and small businesses in the comments section!

Happy gift giving! Liz 

For Children

Well this time of year is all about them isn’t it? Have a look at Lottie Dolls for a diverse range of Irish made, inspiring dolls based on real children. Their key brand drivers are diversity and inclusion, body image, childhood, STEM education, sustainability and empowerment.

Or for a wider range of children toys, try Jiminy. This is a brilliantly curated Irish online shop for eco toys. They are also offering a gift wrapping service with a handwritten note so you can send something a bit more personal to a special someone who you may not get to see this festive season. The ‘gift wrapping with a note’ service is doubly great because it saves the item being posted twice which cuts down on transport emissions.

For the Zero Waste Hero

Although we have a good range of essential low impact products in our shop that are very convenient to add to your weekly veg delivery as and when you need them (see here and here), head to Reuzi for a large range of all things reusable, zero waste and plastic free. It’s a one stop shop for sustainable living. From silicone freezer bags to shampoo bars for dogs, this shop has everything you need to live a zero waste life, stylishly. There are loads of luxury items and gift ideas as well as all the staples.

If you’re looking for something luxurious for the ethical beauty in your life try White Witch. Their organic, vegan, plastic free luxury beauty products are handmade in small batches in the west of Ireland. Have a look at their carefully chosen ingredients, beautifully designed packaging and skilfully made products on their website. I love that they also do refills through the post to further save on the environmental (and financial) cost of packaging.

Second Hand is Sustainable

As ethical consumers we can no longer look down on secondhand. If we are not filling up our landfills we are shipping our recycling across the planet and have no idea what happens to it once it reaches its destination. Buying secondhand is probably the most sustainable way of shopping for what you need. And not only is it cheaper for you and kinder for the planet, it’s fun! 

Check your favourite charity shop. Many of them have moved online and set up an eBay account to get through this lockdown. Why not see if they have that winter coat or wooly hat you were needing before buying new? 

For the Book Worm

For a huge selection of secondhand books at really good prices try The Book Shop

For a mix of secondhand and new books try Galway’s favourite bookshop, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop. When lockdown is over, this quirky shop is well worth a visit too. 

For the Fashionable

For secondhand fashion try Thriftify (which is not just secondhand clothes but also books, dvds, cds, pc and video games and more). Snag yourself a bargain and help keep clothes out of the landfills. This site is easy to navigate and has really helpful search options.

For the Gadget Geek

For secondhand Electronics head to CEX where you’ll find everything from phones, games and consoles to tablets, laptops, DVDs and more. Not only are secondhand electronics much kinder on your wallet, but keeping electronics out of landfill is vital to stop harmful chemicals seeping into the environment. Millions of phones, computers, printers, routers, modems and other electronic equipment get thrown away every year. By buying secondhand, you are not putting a new device into circulation. Think of all the energy and raw materials that go into creating each new device. The more you can use secondhand, the better.

For the Foodie

Look no further than us at Green Earth Organics for your foodie friends and family. We have all the raw ingredients in our veg boxes that the foodie in your life could possibly need to create brilliant meals, plus some treats to keep the chef happy, and we deliver all over Ireland! Why not introduce them to us with a gift voucher or a veg box? How about buying them a fruit and veg delivery with some extra treats – our carefully curated range of teas or coffee and some organic chocolate or biscuits? A really great bottle of wine and some olives, crackers and cheeses – including these amazing vegan cheeses? Check out our new X-mas shop where we’ve put together some brilliant hampers.

My recipe book ‘Cook Draw Feed’ has been added to the shop at Green Earth Organics. An illustrated, plant based cookbook with over 100 inspiring recipes from my 12 years of running a veggie cafe. It’s a unique, hand drawn recipe book which makes a lovely, useful gift. I think it goes perfectly with a box of veg from the farm! I’ll be posting weekly recipes here on the blog so look out for those too.

Local Artists

There are too many brilliant local artists to list here but may we suggest you have a look at our very own Jenny Keavey’s incredible artwork? Her online shop, Into The Woods has a gorgeous collection of fabric and thread wild animal portraits, landscapes and floral hoops which would be gorgeous adorning your walls all year round. She also has a really beautiful collection of Christmas cards which we have added to the Green Earth Organics shop here.