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

Scramble, Kale Pesto & Miso Mushroom Toast

Weekends are for brunching and here is one of our favourites. The combination of fresh, vibrant green pesto, soft, wobbly scrambled tofu and juicy, umami mushrooms is just perfect!

You can make your own pesto very easily if you have a food processor or blender – I used my kale and pumpkin seed pesto that I’m making on repeat this time – or you can of course use a ready made one for ease. We sell a few organic jars of pesto in the grocery section of our shop. The scramble is simply a gently sautéed pack of organic silken tofu seasoned with salt, pepper and some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. And those gorgeous, meaty mushrooms are marinated with our new packs of umami paste then grilled.

What’s your favourite brunch? Are you a sweet or savoury person? Let us know in the comments.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

Method

  1. Cut bread and pop it in the toaster ready to go. Heat up a griddle pan (or fire up the grill in your oven).
  2. Slice the mushrooms in half and mix them with the umami paste and a drizzle of olive oil in a bowl. Then push them onto skewers and place them in a hot griddle pan (or on a tray under your grill) to cook whilst you get on with the scramble.
  3. Heat up a knob of butter (or tbsp of olive oil) in a medium-high heated frying pan. Open your pack of silken tofu, drain off any excess liquid and then pop it in the pan. Break it up gently with a wooden spoon or a spatular.
  4. Season the scrambling tofu with salt and pepper and then add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Keep the scramble moving and cook it for 5 minutes or so until it’s warmed through, but don’t break it up too much. It’s nice when there are still some larger pieces.
  5. Meanwhile turn the mushrooms in the grill to cook the other side and then toast the bread.
  6. Spread the toast with a thick layer of pesto, then divide the scramble and mushrooms between the plates.
  7. Enjoy whilst hot!

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

Seeing the Wood for the Trees

This week we got a little card, and the timing could not have been better. 

The weeks when you are at your most desperate, when life seems to be throwing all sorts of everything at you, when it is relentless, those are the days when a little smile or a nod of appreciation can make all the difference. 

It is funny, you push, and you shove, and you try to make things the way you want them, but in the end, life goes its own way anyhow, there is nothing like farming to shatter theillusion that we have some modicum of control over externalevents.

We want things to be a certain way, to go a certain way, to meet our expectations, and it can be a struggle to let go and accept that we have very little control, it is so ingrained in us. We want to be in control.

As the farm has grown, every year springtime seems to bring an increased powerful pressure to get things done, our resilience is tested, the window is short, the weather is always looming in the background, the rain is never far away.

I am impatient to have more done, to have the ground ready, to have the plants in, to the have the seeds sown to have the tunnels full, but this year nature and events is just not accepting of my impatience. Mother nature has given me a rap on the knuckles, ‘all your rushing will achieve very little’ she whispers!

There has been broken machines, endless rain, cold, frost, delayed plants amongst some of the challenges. The more pressure you feel the harder it can be to see the wood for the trees and appreciate what you have, and it is exactly at times like this when you need to take stock the most.

The fields are saturated, the plants are slow, the slugs are abundant, the machines don’t like the wet soil and the soil does not like them. It does more damage that it is worth to bring a tractor onto a wet field. But sometimes you have no choice.

At the very same time, the hawthorn is in full flower and smells amazing, our local fox struts around the farm as if she owns the place. I am nearly sure this morning I had a full conversation with a starling, and maybe this wasn’t the first sign that I am finally losing the plot! What patches of blue sky we see highlight the beauty of the colds and make us appreciate the sun all the more when it finally does come out, and come it will!

Then there is a contented feeling of seeing the first tomatoes on the plants, of seeing the first baby cucumbers of harvesting our first outdoor crops of lettuce and chard and spinach. I guess we can also see more of what we look for. 

The very best moment though this week was receiving this lovely card/poem that was sent through from a family that are doing the Little Green Fingers course. 

This helped make everything worthwhile again, completely unlooked for and yet at the perfect time 😊

So, thank you Orlaith and Gus and thank you universe and thank you our customers.

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!

Rekindling our Connection with Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenneth

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!

A Fresh Start

Every year it happens, we are waiting and waiting and then bang out of the blue it all starts again. I guess life is like that sometimes, we push and we shove and want to change things, and then when we finally just accept the ways things are (often because what we were doing was making no difference anyway) and least expect it things fall into place.

So it was this morning with my first farm walk in two weeks. We have been struggling with rain and frost and snow for the past two months, and then this morning bright sunshine, singing birds, and growth were evident all around.

We have been busy planting trees and doing some essential maintenance on the tunnels, thinking we had all the time in the world and now suddenly we do not.  The crops need to have our focus again, they are flying. We are finally restarting kale harvest and leeks, and purple sprouting broccoli.

We need to get back into the fields and that starts today.

The first new kale harvest is an unusual one, as we wait for the regrowth, having carefully nurtured the plants over winter, cleaned them and fed them nothing seems to happen for an eternity and then suddenly there is the new kale.

Nature is very subtle, we are always on the watch for change, and somehow just suddenly it changes without you noticing. Like a seed germinating, one day it is a seed and the next it is a plant is has germinated, just like that, this is the miracle and power of nature. It is the same with the kale regrowing, it just happens when the time is right. Or the birds singing a spring morning chorus they just begin.

I get excited at this time of the year, the start of a new growing season and the challenges and opportunities it brings fill me with hope for the year.

It is a natural cycle and as we emerge from the dark winter months there is a sense, at least on the farm, of a new slate, a fresh start, a chance to begin the journey anew.

Nature is wonderful like that, and up until this period in man’s history it has been stable and consistent. I read this morning that the Gulf Stream which here in Northern Europe we rely on for our stable weather patterns is not in good shape. As a result of climate breakdown the ocean currents that power our climate are in turmoil.

These complex global climate regulation mechanisms are hard to understand I would imagine, but there are clear signs that climate stability all over our one and only beautiful home is being compromised.

I do admit to getting frustrated with the slow pace of change, it doesn’t make sense to me. There is a phenomenal opportunity now to take the risk and invest in Green Energy, to cut consumption and do so much more. We as a small farm have done it, and we as a small country can do it.

But maybe it is like the kale regrowing or the seed germinating, you can’t force the seed to grow faster or the kale to appear faster, but all of a sudden without even noticing it has changed.

Maybe that is happening now too with movement to cut consumption, power our lives with green energy, moving to more plant based diets, all these things are happening.

You are causing change by supporting us and as always we could not do what we do without you.

Thank you.

Kenneth

Sign up for a fruit and veg box subscription or build your own box. We deliver to every address in Ireland! Head to www.greenearthorganics.ie to place your order. Thank you.

A New, Better Green Revolution

Over a century ago the American investigative journalist Alfred Henry Lewis observed that there are only nine meals between humankind and anarchy. 

It is always there, the food on the supermarket shelves. It never runs out, but how tenuous is this link to our perceived food security?

Disruption to food production is a whole different level of vulnerability. Climate change is hitting agriculture hard. The frequency of drought, storms, extremes of temperature, are disrupting the very delicate balance in nature required to grow food.

As with business, in agriculture if you are running a system at maximum capacity it takes very little to upset the balance and cause the system to breakdown.  We are pushing our natural resources, we are concerned with ever more production.  We open-up pristine rain-forest land for massive soya plantations, we attempt to extract higher yields from our current systems. 

We are looking for a second “green revolution” we are looking to technology to help improve yields, to continue with business as normal.   

At the very same time where we require more food to feed a growing population, we are seeing variability in our weather systems never seen before, the hottest five years ever recorded all occurred since 2014.

It is such a privilege to be living during this period of prosperity in our Garden of Eden, should we not be doing everything we can to protect it, not destroy it.

The flow of food from field to fork is taken for granted. A major climatic shift could leave us very swiftly with food scarcity. I don’t know what real hunger feels like, but our ancestors in the 1840’s certainly did.

There is no greater or more urgent need than to deal with man-made climate change now.

Producing different food in more sustainable ways, eating differently, consuming less, using renewable energy there are the changes needed.  A transition starts with pushing the burden for the destruction of our planet back onto the companies that are responsible, oil companies and plastics companies, agribusiness and large-scale food business. These are the companies that now run the planet, they dictate what we do and how we do it.

There is so much we can do, our choices matter and we can start our own “Green revolution”

Kenneth

PS It is ironic that “the Green revolution” in the 1950’s was the term applied to the change in agriculture that embraced artificial fertiliser, consolation of farm land and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Thank you for joining the new green revolution by supporting our farm over supermarkets. You can set up a convenient veg box subscription by emailing info@greenearthorganics.ie or place specific orders over on our website www.greenearthorganics.ie

Beetroot Chocolate Brownie

Beetroot in a brownie is nothing new, but it’s still a delicious way to use up those beets in your box – especially if you live in a house of beetrootphobes. Beetroot keeps the brownies extra moist and although you can’t taste them, their earthy sweetness brings an extra quality to the overall flavour that just works really well. My recipe is egg and dairy free and totally adaptable. Leave out the beetroot if you like or replace it with something else. How about some raspberries or cherries? Or some walnuts or hazelnuts? A swirl of peanut butter and some raspberry jam? Let us know over on our community facebook group if you come up with a brownie addition that you’d like to share. Liz x

The recipe illustration from my book which is available to add to your fruit, veg and grocery order here.

Ingredients

Method

Boil about 270g of beetroot (usually around 3 medium sized ones) in plenty of water until cooked through. Then allow the beetroots to cool and slip off their skins using your hands or a small, sharp knife. You should be left with around 250g of cooked beetroot.

Pre-heat your oven to 175C and line a baking dish with baking paper (I use a 25x16cm dish).

Weigh out the dark chocolate and coconut oil into a large pan. 

Gently melt the chocolate and oil together on a low heat.

Whisk your favourite milk (I love creamy oat milk) into the pan and all the dry ingredients – the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarb and baking powder.

Grate the cooked, peeled beetroot straight into the pan and stir well with a wooden spoon/spatular.

Scrape the batter into the lined baking dish, level it out ensuring you get into the corners of the dish, then bake it for 30 minutes or so until it is cracked on top but still has a slight wobble.

Allow the brownie to cool & firm up in the dish to make it easier to slice, you can even chill it in the fridge overnight.

Then carefully move it onto a chopping board, slice it into portions and enjoy!

Here’s a video of the process if you’d like to watch how I do it.