National radio interview and a few thoughts…

During the week I was asked to come on the Sean Moncrieff show to talk about the supermarket practice of loss leading with fresh produce. Only 1% of farms in Ireland now grow veg, there are only 60 commercial growers left in the country down from over 400 in 1998.   

You can listen to the interview here

Not as glamorous as talking from a box in the middle of the field I think, but we gave it a go anyway!  

And if you are inclined to listen to my rant from a box in a polytunnel CLICK HERE

Here’s an example to illustrate exactly why this is happening, a few years ago most of the celery and scallions during the season were grown in Ireland, now that situation has changed dramatically. This year there has been a massive decline in Irish grown celery and scallions on supermarket shelves, and why is this? The bottom-line growers, who are struggling to cover production costs (they have gone up by 43% in the last 3 years!) could not negotiate a very small cost increase, and we are talking cents single digit here, as a result the farmers decided to stop growing the produce.

Two years ago one of the biggest sprout growers in the country closed after three generations due to lack of supermarket support.

The irony of this situation is that as supermarkets continue to practice squeezing the primary producer here in Ireland for short term gain, they must look to source the produce elsewhere.  But there is pressure on growing systems everywhere due to climate change and as a result they can end up paying more for imported produce.

Because after all, with the disastrous growing year we had last year, if you cannot put a little aside in the good years how do you survive the bad years and if your only outlet is the supermarkets, and they won’t help out then there is no other viable choice but to stop growing food.

We, who once were a nation of food producers and vegetable growers have let our primary vegetable growing industry virtually disappear.

I strongly feel that it is a very sad reflection on this retail model and the mindset and expectation it encourages in us as consumers that fresh produce is worthless. Not only does it make the craft of growing food financially unviable, but it is highly demoralising to growers to be told that their produce is essentially worthless.

At the very same time that fresh produce is used to get consumers in supermarket doors by devaluing it to nothing, you have a production and retail industry that thrive on making high margins on junk food. This food, ultra-processed rubbish, is nutritionally worthless and is making us sick and lines most retailers’ shelves.

The solution is simple, primary producers need to be paid more for the produce they grow, this can come about through the celebration of fresh produce, food that will make us well and healthy and in the long run ironically will save us all money and will save an industry.

As always thanks for your support.


PS We have amazing Irish organic produce now, from our own farm, kale Green, Black (Cavolo Nero), Purple, salad, lettuce and courgettes, we have Irish produce from Joe Kelly in Mayo, Padraigh Fahy in Beechlawn, Marc Michel in Wicklow, Enda Hoban in Galway, Mick and Audrey in Millhouse, John Mc Ardle for mushrooms, and so much more.  See our IRISH SECTIOH HERE

No more olive oil…?

A couple of days ago, I had a very interesting conversation with Nicolas who supplies us with amazing, single estate organic Greek olive oil. He came to tell me due to the impact of climate change his farmers do not have any oil for him for the rest of this year, and olive oil could become extremely scarce as the year progresses. This was to be his last delivery to us. 

He also advised that we try and source some oil now from a reputable supplier as the price has inflated so much that there will be sleights of hand in the olive oil industry, and what we think we are getting may not be what we are actually getting.

Our food system has become so convoluted, and as climate change puts more pressure on our production systems, more and more corners will be cut as retailers and farmer get equally desperate to survive. 

Pressure to change our food system is coming and must come, but just this week gone by, we have seen protests in Germany from farmers who are not happy with the pushing of an environmental agenda. I feel their pain, for years governments and the food industry has been encouraging a certain way of doing business, and now that must change. 

This change is inevitable, but it will require a very steady hand on the tiller, and a fundamental change in mindset when it comes to primary food production. An agenda no politician will touch.  Who wants to be the advocate for paying a little more for our food, when our whole system is based on the lowest possible price and not value, because low price does not always mean value.  

There, is no question that the supermarket model devalues fresh food. 

We have just finished the planning for the year ahead and looking at the performance of the farm in 2023 has been a depressing affair. 

I feel we may not have paid ourselves a fair price for the food we sell.  If we do pay our farm more, we will not make enough to run our retail business, as we must keep our prices as low as we can to try and compete with supermarkets, it is a tough space to be in.

But there is no question now in my mind as we head into 2024 with fresh purpose that our farm needs to be fairly compensated for the food it grows. There is a cost to produce high value food.

But there is also a very real, unseen cost attached to the selling of 1 Litre of olive for less than €4. This is the unseen, disconnected cost, the price of a level of agricultural industrialisation reliant on chemicals and ultra processing that removes any remnants of the original olives from the olive oil, all the goodness that was once there is gone.  This is the price we pay for our modern-day food system.

As climate breakdown amplifies, we may find ourselves increasingly seeing empty supermarket shelves where we expect the food to be.

Of course, there is a different path we can thread here, one that is brighter, better, filled with wholesome, chemical free nutrition, one that protects, enhances, helps and does right by our people, health, and planet. That is the course we are holding steady to.

Thank you for being with us on this one.