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

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.

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!

This Year’s Tree Planting Has Begun

This past week marks the first of our tree planting that we began on your behalf. We are planting another 1500 trees and this is specifically because of your support.

You have enabled us to do this as well as so much more. Because we charge a little more for our organic produce we can take the steps we do take to grow food sustainably.

This is not all your support has enabled. The solar panels on our packing shed roof every day are generating clean electricity. The rainwater harvesting enables the watering of our tunnels with chlorine free water.

The hundreds of metres of hedge rows that we have grown and the preservation of old hedgerows, the sowing of wildflowers. Madly, the re-homing of two rescue pigs, who may I add are getting fatter and bigger by the day.

The resting of the land, the sowing of green manure to take carbon from the air and fertilise the ground. The production of crops without chemicals.

The delivery of your boxes without plastic, the collection and reuse of our boxes. The support for many local small-scale Irish business. The support of several local Irish organic growers. The purchase of only Fair-trade produce where it is available. Never air-freighting produce. Always looking to reduce food waste, never rejecting food based on looks or size, but making sure we keep a close eye on quality.

Not doing it all for profit, but hoping to make a profit.

You are supporting all of this, you are also supporting a new way of doing things, you are sending a message to the powers that be that there is a better way, that things can be done differently, it doesn’t have to be all about large scale intensification of agriculture to the detriment of biodiversity and our countryside.

We aim to make sure we are supplying you with the very freshest, best tasting healthiest produce. We aim to make sure it is as if you picked it yourself. It is a difficult business to be in: growing, handling and delivering fresh produce, that is why there are so few doing it. It is hard to get it right, not saying we always get it right, but when we don’t we will be the first to admit it and set it right straight away.

You are supporting local jobs in rural Ireland, you are keeping a community alive, you are supporting a different way of life.

Thank you for placing your trust in us.

Kenneth

Get your organic fruit, veg and grocery orders in now for delivery next week.

4 Ways With… January King Cabbage

A cabbage can be a tricky beast to use up and we get asked for cabbage recipes all the time over on our community facebook group. If you are stuck on what to do with the cabbage in your box this week, then this is the video for you. Although I used a beautiful January King from my weekly subscription box, of course the recipes can also be applied to a savoy cabbage.

These are just four of the many ways that I use up a cabbage regularly. Please share your favourite cabbage recipes with us and other readers in the comments. There can never be too many cabbage recipe ideas…especially at this time of year! Liz x

Cabbage Rolls (serves 4)

  • 8-10 outer leaves of the cabbage
  • 1 mug or so of leftover cooked short grain brown rice (or cook fresh. Simply measure 1/2 a mug of rice into a pot, add 1 mug of water and bring to the boil with the lid on, then turn down and simmer until the rice has absorbed all the liquid)
  • 10 minced mushrooms sautéed with garlic, salt and pepper
  • a tin of kidney beans, drained, rinsed and squished
  • a pot of simple tomato sauce (a sliced onion and 2 cloves of diced garlic fried in a little olive oil, simmered with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a little water, salt, pepper and a tbsp of dried dill)

Rinse your cabbage well and remove as many outer leaves as you can. I try to get 8-10 to feed the four of us.

Use a rolling pin to roll out and flatten the chunky stem that runs up the middle of each leaf.

Mix together the mushrooms, rice and kidney beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Then neatly roll up a couple of tbsp of the filling into each each cabbage leaf and tuck them snuggly into the sauce. They should be sealed side down so that they don’t unravel in the sauce. See video above for how to do that.

Put the lid on the dish and roast it in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cabbage leaves are soft and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve with tangy natural yoghurt, pepper, more dill and a slice of sourdough bread.

Cabbage & Apple (serves 4 as a side)

  • 1 sliced apple
  • shredded 1/4 of a cabbage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
  • a small glass of cider/white wine/apple juice (or a tbsp vinegar and a glass of water)

Heat up the sliced apple with the butter/oil while you shred the cabbage.

Add the shredded cabbage and season it with salt and pepper. Let it cook down for a little while.

Once it starts to sizzle, add your liquid (cider/wine/apple juice/vinegar-water) and give it a good stir.

Pop the lid on the pot and let the cabbage and apple gently braise and soften for 10 minutes or so. This is a perfect side to a Sunday roast or with mashed potato, veggie sausages and wholegrain mustard!

Cabbage ‘Slaw (serves 4)

Mix the carrot and cabbage in a large bowl with the dressing.

Top with the nuts, seeds, chilli and spring onion.

Serve rolled up in soaked rice paper wrappers for crunchy, raw spring rolls. Or just eat it as it is or with some of our Thai rice noodles for a fresh and crunchy, zingy salad.

Cabbage & Coconut Curry (serves 4 as a side)

Make a tarka first by frying the cumin, mustards seeds, chilli, garlic and curry leaves in hot vegetable oil until very fragrant.

Add the sliced cabbage and season it with salt and pepper. Then add the ground ginger and turmeric and stir to coat the cabbage in the spices.

Add the juice of 1/2 a lime and a tin of coconut milk and simmer until the cabbage is cooked through but still a bit crunchy.

Serve as a side to other curries and rice. Or make it the main event and bulk it out by adding cooked potatoes and a drained and rinsed tin of chickpeas.

Many Lessons Learned

I remember growing potatoes, and funnily enough onions, with my dad when I was a young lad of nine or ten or so. Back then it was what you did, we used to have a big timber box in the shed, we would harvest the potatoes after the skin had “set” and fill the box for the winter.

If we knew there was a few days of sun coming, it was my job to climb up on to the top of the shed and lay out the onions to dry, I liked that. I guess I must have learned something back then.  

When we moved back to Ireland 17 years ago, I started growing vegetables again. The first carrots I grew were amazing, and I was proud of producing our food right there in our garden. It seemed the most sensible thing in the world to produce food locally and naturally without chemicals. My time working in the chemical industry had taught me chemicals belong in a lab and not on our food.

There were many lessons learned (and many we continue to learn) going from a few beds in the garden to a 40 acre farm, but the over-riding principle of producing food sustainably has never changed.

It seems to me that it is increasingly difficult, and downright irresponsible to justify taking decisions that do not put not the welfare of the planet at their core. We can no longer justify growing 80% of our crops to feed animals and growing them with excessive use of chemicals and artificial fertiliser.

For some it is easier to pretend that nothing is happening, and everything is going to be ok, that the people in charge know what they are doing and that they will make the right decisions. Thankfully some do, some businesses are embracing change, some leaders are showing that there is a different way, but there is still so much to be done.

Time is running out. Sugar coating the inevitable is not going to make climate breakdown go away, but how easy it would be to change our behaviour. We are on the precipice of rapid change. A new era of sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, a reduction in consumption and a new outlook is upon us, business as usual will be relegated to the back of the closet where it belongs.

We (you and I) have such an opportunity to lead the way, to be at the heart of a food and carbon revolution and it can start with the simple step of changing what we put on our plates. The most amazing thing about sustainable food of course, is that not only is it better for you and I and the planet, but it tastes so much better too.

As always thanks for your support. You can sign up to a veg box subscription by emailing us or order direct from our website here. Not only do we delivery the best organic fruit and veg, but a wide range of organic groceries too!

Kenneth

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