50 today and I wonder what my grandad would say ?

Today I am 50, and because of the day that is in it and because we have many new people here that may not know our story, I thought I would share it again.

The story of our farm began three generations ago, with my Grandad who was the head Gardener at the local castle.  This farm came to life in 1923, with the land act that allowed Irish tenant farmers to buy their own land for the first time.

It must have been a remarkable feeling, for the first time my granddad owned his own plot of land.  Up until then he had worked as head Gardener for the Blake family that owned Cregg castle.

He worked in the walled garden and by all counts had green fingers. He did not have access to chemicals or plastic. He grew amazing fresh organic produce for the Blake’s and for his own family. This was a time before everything was available all year round. It was a time when the first fresh new season produce was anticipated with much relish.

There is still a whisper of that anticipation left in our society today, at least for a short period that attends on the arrival of the first new season potatoes. A beautiful tradition handed down by the needs of our ancestors.

I remember my grandad growing peas, and rhubarb and apples, carrots and potatoes, turnips and cabbage all from a relatively small kitchen garden here on this farm.

My dad too had green fingers and he grew much of the food we ate in the early years. Drying onions on the roof of our shed, I remember being up there on the galvanise turning the onions in the beating sun so they would cure, before bringing them into the shed for the winter.

My interest in continuing this family tradition of growing food was not to be realised for some time. A defining moment of thinning mangles with plastic bags wrapped around my knees tied with bailing twine sent me as far as you could possibly get from muck, clay and growing food.

But something inside must have been stirred and disillusionment with a career in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry lead me back to the land. 18 years ago we embarked on this journey of sustainable food production.  

I wonder sometimes what my grandad would say seeing the fancy machines we use today to keep crops weed free.

I wonder what he would say about how growing food in this country has been devalued to the point of extinction.

Or about the cheap imports, of questionable ethical and sustainable origins and exploitative labour practices which mean the Irish farmer cannot ever hope to compete.

I wonder what he would say about the reliance on plastic and chemicals. Chemicals that mean the bees are dying; our biodiversity is disappearing; and our water ways once clean, pristine, and brimming with fish are polluted with chemicals and stifled with growth of toxic algae due to soluble fertiliser run off.

He would surely be dazzled by the choice and convenience of produce available 365 days of the year.

But I wonder would he think it was all worth it, to get food at the cheapest possible price?  I would like to think he would say not.

So, in that first year, as myself, Jenny my wife and my dad Michael packed our first boxes on some pallets supported by empty Guinness barrels I wonder would he have thought we were mad?

Probably, most others did.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that he would have been proud and happy to see the farm being used to grow sustainable local food and respected in the same way as it was in his time.

Thank you, granddad, and thank you dad, without their hard work and belief none of this would have been possible.


One of Those Weeks

Last week was a terrible week. Have you ever had one of those? Where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. We are a small family business, we are based on our own family farm in county Galway and small things can have a big impact. 

Have you ever faced into a time when you really can’t figure out which way is up? Everything is going against you? Things are unravelling before your eyes? Well if you have then we can certainly empathise. 

Last week was the week, we have had quite a few of “those weeks” over the last two years, and we know we have been the lucky ones, many businesses have not been so lucky, we have managed to stay open and stay going. I think maybe even Florence and George our pet rescue pigs knew there was something amiss last week.

Most of you our customers will hopefully have been none the wiser that there was anything amiss.

The week started with several staff not being able to come in to work due to close contact related stuff, we were down people and were on the back foot from the start. But we got busy, the guys and girls working put in amazing effort.

Then there were delays to deliveries, disruptions to our transport partners that meant we were left with significant stock shortages. Again, everybody got pretty busy both harvesting extra on the farm and changing contents in boxes to make sure everybody got as close to what they wanted as possible.

Then in the middle of it all more of the team were out,  so we had to put a stop on most of the harvest temporarily and drafted the farm team into the packing shed to help with packing. We were working flat out. 

By Wednesday we were stretched, stressed and there was just too many plates spinning.

But on Thursday the ultimate disaster struck our whole website and all the software we rely on to keep the wheels turning crashed and was not back online again properly until Friday afternoon. That left us with a backlog of nearly 300 orders to pack in one day, as close to an impossible task as there is. 

Not only that but an already stretched customer service team were trying their very best to get back to the many queries that were coming in as a result of the outage.

It was intense, busy, stressful, and at times energised, fuelled by pizza and loud music, but the team came through in the end. 

The final icing on the cake was not having our orders ready for our usual transport link to Dublin and we had to hire our own truck, which arrived and was not big enough, so we had to make two runs though the night to get the orders to Dublin for Saturday morning delivery, 4.45 am the last boxes were loaded onto the truck on our farm on Saturday morning.

Not only that but the team were back in on Saturday again to try and mop up the missed pieces and Darragh our Limerick Agent was even packing his own orders by hand on Saturday and Sunday to ensure they were done for delivery on Monday.

It was close to the most difficult week we have had. But you know what we got through it. The team here were remarkable and did an astounding job, and I am grateful for all their hardwork. 

Thank you guys.