Crops and a broken climate

This week we had a visit from our farm agronomist who has been working with us now for over 10 years, and as always it is a sobering conversation, we walk the farm assess the crops, see the ones that have done well, those that have not done so well, and try and understand why. As it stands in his own words, ‘if you get it right 70% of the time with crop growing you are doing well’, as you cannot account for the variabilities of nature.

Even with the best planning and action things can go wrong, as with all aspects of life I guess, and sometimes it can feel like the best thing you can do is just keep going, put your head down, grit your teeth and hope when you look up it will all be ok. Not the most compelling of plans, but in the absence of a better one a plan nevertheless! But nature is in crisis and this year we have seen climate records being broken all over the world. June 2023 was the hottest on record, and here in Ireland, July registered as the wettest July ever. Dealing with these extremes here in Ireland is challenging, but we have been spared the worst compared to some parts of the world.

These extremes are making it tougher and will make it more difficult to grow food in future years, and I for one am thankful for the relatively benign (if wet) climate we continue to have here in Ireland. In May and June, we suffered drought and July arrived with endless rain and this has made the season very challenging and for some growers even accessing the fields to harvest crops has become difficult, weed control too has been a problem. We have seen our fair share of weeds and in some crops, we have had remarkable success and in others we have failed, all part of the pleasure and pain of food production.

Finally, it seems we are having a small reprieve from the rain, and whatever you say about rain, when it is combined with heat you get growth, and have we seen growth, the kale, the broccoli, the cabbage, the celery, and all the other field crops have jumped in production, as have the tomatoes. In fact, we are now overflowing with an abundance of Irish crops. Tomatoes are one of my favourite crops, but they require a lot of time and a large investment in energy and labour. The plants (we have 1100) were sown at the end of Feb and now 6 months on we are harvesting the fruits of our labour, in that time we have prepped the tunnels, weeded them, fertilised them, planted the plants, each week twice a week side-shooted and trained the plants up the string and now finally after all that love and care we get 2 and a half months of harvest.

We have had some notable achievements in our crops, the onion crop thanks to Emmanuel and his team is one of the best we have ever seen and from the week after next all our onions will be Irish and organic of course, freshly harvested here on our farm. These days fresh onions are rare, they are milder and tastier than their dried cousins, so I am looking forward to them. A few weeks back we asked for your help in supporting our business, our farm and the farms of other Irish organic growers that supply us and you were amazing, and it has helped enormously.

The last couple of weeks have been tough as the bank holiday and holiday season in general have had a big impact on our orders, and hence on our planned harvest of crops, we have tomatoes coming out of our ears! Your order makes a difference and helps gives a home to the food we have grown, so please if you can place an order in the weeks ahead.

So as always thank you for your support and we hope you enjoy the rest of the holidays!