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

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

Thank You!

Thank you to so many who have responded to our plea last week.

The level of generosity from all of you has blown us away.  Our farm is in full harvest mode now and we are bringing in so much produce daily that our stores are full.

Not only that, but we are supporting several other local organic farms to fill your boxes. Your support has meant everything to us and to them.

Every year we see a large drop in orders when we are at our most productive on the farm and this year has been the biggest drop off ever. This is quite understandable, as we all need a break and a holiday. 

July is the month of local IRISH plenty and your support every week keeps our business afloat, we rely on it, the supermarkets won’t miss you, but we will!

If you can at all continue to support us through the summer, it makes all the difference and it helps us ensure all our harvest we have been working towards for the last six months gets a home.

The last 16 months here on the farm have been a never-endingrollercoaster and so difficult one week to the next to predict what is around the corner. I know many small businesses up and down the country have gone through a very rough time and we are grateful to still be here and open and have thesupport of you our customers. 

But 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. Whether that is putting food on the table for our families, or beating an illness, or keeping a farm and business together when at times it seems close to unravelling.

The little idea that a small farm here in the West coast of Ireland could help fix this planet, help fix our food system was our “WHY”. This of course is a huge ask, an insurmountable mountain it would seem. But there is change everywhere, more and more organic growers, more and more people eating mostly plant-based foods, more and more sustainable locally focused consumers. In my view this is one solution to the greater climate crisis.

The ethos of our business: Zero waste/plastic free, carbon neutrality (solar panels cover our packing shed and our first 100% electric van is now on the road),our sustainable farming practices, the support and commitment to other organic local growers (And not just greenwash as with the supermarkets) and supplying fresh healthy organic food remains the core of our business .  

Our founding principles will never change, and I think more than ever this is the path we as society need to thread.

Thank you for your support

Kenneth.

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

Rainbow Chard Parcels

The stunning rainbow chard coming out of the farm at the moment is absolutely fantastic! It’s one of our favourite crops, so vibrant and so tasty. Here’s a recipe to make the most out of its beauty. Don’t forget to browse our farm products and add them to your next order, we’d hate for you to miss out on the seasonal harvest.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 bag of rainbow chard (250g)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (1 for sautéing, 2 for the mash, 1 for drizzling)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • a handful of torn basil leaves
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 tin of lentils, drained
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • optional cheese to taste – I like to use my tofeta
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Scrub the potatoes, chop into bites and get them on to boil.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and find an oven and hob safe pan with a lid.
  3. Sauté the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp of olive oil for about 10 minutes or until soft and starting to caramelise.
  4. Add the tins of tomatoes and the torn basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Half fill the tins with water and swirl the tomatoey juices out of the tins, into the pan. Then bring the sauce up to simmer and bubble away while you make the chard parcels.
  6. Remove the long chard stems, slice them into bites and add them to the tomato sauce.
  7. Mash the potatoes with 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Then stir in the drained lentils, sliced scallions, chilli flakes and optional cheese.
  8. Lay the chard leaves out, upside down on a chopping board with the top of the leaf closest to you and the colourful stalks pointing away from you.
  9. Add a spoon of the mashed potato and lentil filling to a leaf near the top closest to you, roll the leaf over the filling away from you, then fold over the sides and keep rolling until you make a neat parcel.
  10. Take the sauce off the heat and pour it into medium baking dish, then tuck the chard parcel, seam side down, into the sauce. Repeat until you have used up all the chard leaves or filling. Then drizzle the last tbsp of olive oil over the parcels.
  11. Then put a lid or sheet of foil or parchment on the dish and pop it in the oven to steam/roast for just 10 minutes or so. The sauce should be bubbling hot and the leaves should be tender.
  12. Serve in bowls with bread and salads.

Careful What You Wish For

It is ironic, I sometimes think, that the time of the greatest local bounty coincides with the least number of customers.  So, if you can at all do not forget about us, take us with you if you are going on a staycation or better still, let us deliver to you there. Please tell your friends, neighbours and families about us as every extra box helps us survive the summer.

During the height of the stress of the pandemic there was no time, and we were busy to the point of breaking, but now with a little space to think the realisation that we have run a marathon without the training is hitting home.

I have harvested a sum total of about two cucumbers so far this season. Thankfully, the farm team have been doing epic work and that has allowed me to be jumping around between so many different things.

Now we are trying to catch up with the growth. Thinking and putting the structures in place that will allow us to stabilise and grow is more important than ever.  Conscious change is harder than change that is forced upon you, this is thought lead, painstaking change, it requires a great deal of energy and like all change it is hard and takes time. Ultimately though, it is a good thing.

We as a sustainable food producer now have an opportunity to make a big difference in our corner of the world. This opportunity to have a real positive impact on the environment has been handed to us by you. To that end we have an obligation to make it work. 

There is absolutely no question that the easiest route is to leave things as they are and keep doing things the way we always have. But this approach means we are not innovating in how we grow food or in how we get the food to you. Without constant forward motion we cannot hope to compete or survive against the supermarkets and their consistent devaluation of fresh food.

Often the price of growth is having to do things you do not necessarily like or want to do
(at least initially), it can pull you away from what you love and that is a big sacrifice.

I love being out in the fields watching the crops, understanding what is going on and if I am honest, I love driving the tractors (who would not I guess) but recently there has been little time for that. So, is the price of progress worth it?

On the farm it is clear. The price is worth it, and it is seen in better crops, improved biodiversity, more trees and hedgerows and strangely more people.  Because of the innovation we have a better farm and this year we have even more to harvest and some of the best crops ever. Now the time of full harvest is upon us, and we are so busy in the fields.

This week we have had 10 people in the fields. We have been weeding, planting, preparing ground, tying up cucumbers and tomatoes and of course harvesting. It is local people (this year we have loads of local teenagers join the team) harvesting local food. 

As always thank you for your support.

Kenneth

Harvest Begins

As I write, it is a beautiful evening, the sun has just emerged from behind a cloud and there is a golden bright sunset. It seems we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.  It is not before time too as we fast approach the summer solstice.                                           

Food has always brought people together. Two generations ago the act of bringing in the hay was a sociable event, square bales were loaded onto trailers, picnics or sandwiches were often had in the fields followed by a cold drink at the end of the day, chat and talk and craic was had by all.

In our continued march towards bigger more intensive agricultural systems the people have all but disappeared from the fields having been replaced by machines.  This it seems is the price of progress and maybe to a certain extent it is necessary, but it makes me a little sad. Maybe it is nostalgia?  As a kid having brought in that hay, I remember the sun and the sandwiches and the people. But when I think a little more, I also remember the blisters and the terrible heat and scratchiness of having to heave those bales to the very top of a galvanised hay shed, those bit’s I do not miss.

The machines on our farm facilitate the work and we do everything we can to avoid having to hand weed vegetables rows that are nearly half a kilometre in length.  That job is no fun and where there is a smarter way to do something, we take it.

Finding solutions to repetitive work is a must on small-scale mixed organic vegetable farms and we do, but we still have people in the fields every day and our farm is active and alive with people, vegetables, and biodiversity. 

We have been working very hard over the last six months to get the farm to the point it is at now.

Even so it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with the work. Everything has reached a crescendo and the list has been growing, what to prioritise during those rare dry days has become a source of pressure behind the eyes, we can only just keep doing the first things first.

The work always gets done the question is can we get it done in time? If we miss a sowing date, we don’t get second shot, we never regain those lost days, and the plants may struggle to reach maturity.

It’s a relatively small window and for the farm to reach it’s breakeven point and that’s all we ever hope for, we can afford to miss very few of those planting dates.

Here we are on the cusp on July and the list of produce harvested from the farm is steadily growing week on week. The first fresh bunches of beetroot, our own kale, salad, lettuce red and green, spinach and chard are ready. The cucumbers are a week away and the new potatoes 2-3 weeks away, the first of our own tomatoes are nearly there too, all we need is the sun.

Then there is the irony that as we come into our own produce as the farm finally starts to crank up a gear and we start to harvest the freshest produce we face a downturn in orders due to summer holidays and this year the impact is even greater as the country opens.

I would ask if you can at all, continue to support our farm, help get us through the summer months, we rely on your support to keep doing what we do.

So as the sun sets, there is no hay to bring in, but I look forward to a dry bright day tomorrow as we have big day of harvest before us.

Thank you for your continued support!

Kenneth

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!

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!

Earth Day & The Hungry Gap

People often ask, why do you produce your own food? Why do you grow it when it is so much cheaper to import it? It is a very easy answer, and the reasons are twofold: I love what I do, it is in my blood (we are third generation farmers) and I would not do anything else.

Secondly because it simply is the right thing to do. Having food grown locally makes sense, it cuts down on carbon emissions, it is fresher, it provides local employment, it improves biodiversity, and we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it. We need more people to do it.

With Earth Week starting today and Earth Day falling on the 22nd, it is a good time to reflect on our habits. We have seen such a shift to supporting local food over the last 12 months and this is one of the most wonderful changes we as individuals and families can make. It’s impact on the planet cannot be overstated, understanding where and how our food is produced can help us make better decisions and lead to a cleaner healthier planet.

Today as I write this, after a day in the fields, I feel lucky to be a farmer. Days do not come much better than this, the sky is blue, the sun is shining the birds are singing and we are on schedule with our planting. In the West of Ireland days like today are to be relished and enjoyed, and there is the added bonus that our office is a 5-acre field, I like that.

If there was one small thorn in my side, it is the planting machine. It is temperamental old and cranky and every year there is a requirement to find mutual common ground between (sometimes also cranky) farmer and machine, this year that ground has been hard to find and has led to a few choice expletives.

Nevertheless, if farming has thought me anything and it teaches a lot, is that perseverance with an air of optimism generally gets you through.

It is funny to think that just this week we finished harvesting the last of our kale which was planted nine months ago and today we planted the very first kale for the new year. This kale will take at least 8 weeks to reach harvestable maturity. We have also been very busy planting cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, lettuce, and celery.

Myself being the impatient individual that I am can sometimes expect that we should have more IRISH food at this time of the year especially when the sun shines. But nature and farming do not work like that, and right now we are slap bang in the middle of what we call the “Hungry Gap”. There is a lull in IRISH food supply, of course that does not mean it is not available, it is, and we have loads, leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, salad, radish, and parsnips. But for the next few weeks it gets difficult.

Every year we get a little bit earlier and a little bit smarter with our planting and this year is the earliest yet, but even so, there are weeks starting now when supply is tight. Take tomatoes for example, we have our plants ready for transplanting, but harvest is at least 8 weeks away.

Right now, on our 40-acre organic farm there is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes. For the last 2 months we have been busy ploughing, tilling, fertilising, planting, covering, uncovering, watering and sowing. All of this to lead to a rich harvest of local organic food in the weeks ahead, but it takes time, and it does not matter how impatient I am, nature cannot be sped up, it travels at its own pace.

So, although we are heading into the hungry gap now, be reassured that you are supporting a truly local food growing effort both here on our farm and through all the other amazing IRISH organic farms and producers across the country that we support. Remember in the famous words of Margaret Meade “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As always, thank you for your patience and perseverance!

Kenneth

PS Don’t forget to do a little something for Earth Week, whether it is supporting more local food producers, or learning more about how your food is produced, driving less, turning off lights or eating less meat, what can you do? Just raising our awareness is a powerful tool in the fight for our planet.