It’s In Our Blood

My dad (Michael) was an avid gardener. My grand dad (Martin) had a beautiful vegetable garden and he was also a mixed farmer, my great grand-dad Michael was the head gardener at Cregg Castle (1911) and my great great grandad John was also a gardener at Cregg castle in the 1850’s onwards.

That is 5 generations of vegetable growers in our family, not bad for the west of Ireland. Famous for its perceived poor soil as Oliver Cromwell’s famous quote “to hell or to Connaught” has incorrectly often been associated with. I believe there must be something in our blood that keeps us coming back to the land. Certainly, I believe it was this connection that brought be back from years of working in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry to reconnect with the land and build a sustainable farm.

Back in the early days I had more hair than today, the journey has not been without its hair raising moments! I wonder sometimes what my great, great grandad would have thought of what we are doing here today on this patch of ground in Galway. It was not that long ago when you think about it when my great-great grandad was gardening, the food they were growing back then would certainly have been free from chemicals (there were none; not till the strangely named ‘green revolution’ of the 1960’s did chemical usage become prevalent in agriculture) and would have been harvested fresh for the table.

Everyday, we demonstrate that it is possible to grow the very best of food without the use of toxic chemicals, they are not necessary in our organic food growing system. There was a certain strong seasonality about food back then, there was no other choice, there were no imports or fancy fruits like bananas. There was no plastic, imagine that, a world only maybe 50 years ago when there was little or no plastic! I think I would have struggled with the lack of choice, but how sweet the first season’s apples or how flavoursome the first new potatoes must have been. I think it must have been from here that our obsession with early potatoes came.

I think I would also have struggled with the lack of machinery. While it is enjoyable and hugely rewarding to work in a garden with a spade and your hands it is another matter entirely to be growing enough food to feed 1000+ families per week. That is what we do here on our patch of organic land in the west of Ireland.

I often wonder when I look back at how our recent ancestors farmed and lived how it is possible that we have, in the space of 100 years, done so much damage to our planet? How can we change to reverse the damage, is it possible? Absolutely. I don’t like the idea of new years resolutions and even if I did, it is a bit early to be thinking about them now. Our resolution if you like will not be any different to any other year, we will be redoubling our efforts to do as we have always done, which is to make growing and delivering food to your doors as sustainable and healthy as is possible.

Thank you as always for your support.

Kenneth

Our Food Choices Matter

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Meade.

I remember as a child picking peas in my grandad’s garden. He had apple trees, he grew his own veg. I remember sitting on his lap drinking a mug of turnip juice, (I can’t imagine trying to get my kids to do that today!) most of the food was grown on his farm. He was without knowing it, growing, and providing healthy sustainable food for his family. Our food system has changed so much in a generation and our job has always been to turn the clock back and bring us back to the days when food tasted like food.

When was the last time you tasted a freshly harvested carrot, can you remember what it should taste like? There can be such pleasure in the simple foods and eating well. Healthy and sustainable food is what we have been delivering from our farm to people’s doors all over Ireland for the last 15 years.

November is still a month of local seasonal plenty. It is now that the real Irish vegetables come into their own, leeks, parsnips, swedes, kales, winter cabbage and carrots to name but a few.

On our farm the arrival of November allows a sigh of relief. The relentless pressure of the summer is finally winding down and we are settling into a routine of harvest. The trees are turning, the wild-flowers have gone to seed, the hedgerows are full of berries, the bees are getting ready to hibernate, even the birds are relaxing a little, everything seems to slow down. Something we could all do a little bit more of.

November too can be a time for reflection. As a farmer the simple things like tree planting, growing hedgerows and leaving wild patches can give enormous pleasure and there is an immensely powerful added benefit, they lead to better, healthier more sustainable food.

Our organic food and groceries are used to make lunches and dinners, fill larders and hopefully bring health and happiness to 1000’s of homes every week. Your choice to be part of our tribe, not only means that you are making the best choice for your health, you are also choosing to protect our planet and the environment; the absence of chemicals in our food mean a healthier planet and increased biodiversity on farms.

Our parents and grandparents chose well, they ate seasonally and locally, they ate less meat. Who doesn’t remember cabbage and turnip and the endless ways to cook potatoes! Maybe what we eat deserves a little more consideration (and you clearly think so)? Our food choices matter so much more than we will ever know.

So as the saying goes, choose wisely! We have more power than we realise.

Kenneth

Less is More

Fuelled by the supermarket model of loss leaders and fresh produce devaluation, cheap food has a lot to answer for. When food is cheap those who deserve respect do not get it, from the farmers to the planet to you the consumer. 

We produce high quality food, food that is safe, that tastes like our grandparents remember food tasting, and is a big part of the solution to the appalling state of our planet. 

When it comes to agriculture we can do so much more, there are so many simple opportunities to make a difference. Food can be a large part of the solution rather than a big part of the problem. Because solutions are necessary and urgently so.

A few years back on my way to the ploughing championships a strange creature running in a field caught my attention. I stopped the van to catch a better glimpse and right there amidst a herd of cows was an ostrich! Ostrich farming was once a viable enterprise here in Ireland, and if that is possible then surely anything is. 

This was September 2018 and a day later the event was cancelled because of storm damage. Just 12 months earlier hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland and 6 months later the “beast from the East” caused widespread disruption and empty supermarket shelves. Three months after the snow we had an intense drought that caused us to lose crops.  Three intense major climate related events in less than a year, this is a taster of what may be to come if action is not taken right now on man made greenhouse gas emissions.

Are we waking up?  Are leaders and businesses wide awake to what is happening because they need to be. The days of acting like ostriches are over. We need change now. We need to reduce our material consumption immediately. We need to decarbonise our whole energy system.  We need to eat less meat; our whole agriculture ecosystem needs to change.

I get frustrated by the slow progress on reducing emissions, I know frustration will not help. I get angry with the seeming lack of urgent concern of those in power. I also understand that even though reducing emissions seems simple it is not, it is a complex global problem. 

It is a sad fact we as a civilisation are still intensely reliant on fossil fuels, but there has never been a better time for transitioning to a clean zero carbon future. It will not be easy, but it is infinitely doable and well within our grasp.

Our new electric van is partly powered by solar panels on our packing shed roof, pure clean energy and we use it for delivery, it is possible.

I would like to say that I have a deep stirring of positivity as we head into winter, both for the farm and for the planet. I want to believe that we may be turning a corner and for the first-time people everywhere are rising to the challenge but are our leaders? Are our businesses doing what is necessary? Of this I am not so sure.

Will ours be the generation that will see an end to climate change? I want to believe it will be.

Thank you for your continued support!

Kenneth

Get sustainable shopping delivered to your door here.

Sowing the Seeds of Love

These lyrics from ‘Tears for Fears’ may not have been talking about plants, but they do describe activities on the farm this week.

The last seven days have been a stretch on the farm for all sorts of reasons. We are very lucky to have, in every area of our business, strong teams and the farm is no exception.

When you don’t need to ask and yet the lads put in 12-hour days to get the sowing done before the rain you know you have special people. 

In vegetable farming it is about a great many things but right at the top of the list is timing.

Getting the timing right is powerful stuff and the race against the rain in the West of Ireland is always a close call and fraught with uncertainty.

I am relieved that the carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and spinach are all now in the ground. There is more to sow, but the first batches are sown and that has for now stilled the vague buzz of concern at the back of my mind that we will not win the race against the weather.

The first tomatoes, cucumbers and a host of broccolis, cabbages, kales, romanescos and more are all planted and making good progress.

So, we march on, the first weeding is happening the first harvest of new season crops too, our own gorgeous lettuce and spinach, chard, radish parsley and more.

‘Feel the pain, talk about it’ another lyric from the same great song. There has been hard work certainly, pain a little, satisfaction at a job well done for sure. But there is pain in the modern world of food production and we in our own little way we are attempting to set that right.

Although we have been very busy with the work of growing food our care for the land has certainly not been forgotten, the wildflowers, the hedges and wildlife, the trees, the birds and beehives, the pigs and the foxes, the work on those long term valuable investments has already been done in quieter days.

The fruits and benefits of which now we can see.

Every day I am so grateful to be able to do this, I am grateful to you for giving us and our farm the opportunity to thrive.

Your choice to get a box from us is an amazingly positive thing and you should know it is making a difference for you and your families health, and for the health of the planet.

Thank you.

Kenneth

PS: Have you tried our new repeat order system yet? You can set up an order for delivery every week and you can pause it or change it at any time.  So if you need certain things each week why not add them to your regular fruit and veg order and never miss your order deadline again?

Lots of Small Changes

Do small changes make a difference?

When I was younger, I believed that by convincing my parents to recycle glass bottles and joining Green Peace that we would make a difference, I was utterly convinced, I never doubted it for a second, I knew the planet was precious and that our changes made a difference.

All young children have a connection with nature and they believe they can do anything, so what happens as we grow up? Why do we lose that sense of value for the natural world that we had as children?

When we started the farm, I believed growing sustainable food would change the planet, and that all we needed was a tractor, some seeds and we would have a successful farm. When we expanded into Dublin, I believed we would finally be able to reach enough people to get the farm and the business running smoothly and start to make a real difference to what and how people eat. At times on this journey, I became disillusioned. The pressure and stress, the financial hardships, the decisions, the fighting to do the right thing when it seemed it was all going against us made me question why we were doing what we were doing. But ultimately, we stayed the course and stuck to our principles.

I am not sure how long it normally takes, but it took (and continues to take) a long time to realise  that no one change in isolation changes anything. Real change and success is built on lots and lots of little things done consistently over time. This is as true for building a new habit as for fixing the planet.

Maybe one by one and little by little all our changes taken together can effect real change. Maybe your choice to plant a tree, to avoid weed killer, or to tell you kids about biodiversity and educate them in the beauty and preciousness of nature contribute to real positive change.

By buying from us you are effecting real change, you are choosing a different way to eat and are supporting serious changes behind the scenes.

On the farm we produce some of our electricity by a 11kW solar panel array on the roof of our packing shed. We farm organically, we grow trees, and hedges and flowers and food. We use paper and compostable plant-based bags, we reuse our boxes, we aspire to zero waste and being carbon neutral.

Your choice to support us means you are one of a community that are choosing a new and better way to eat, you are supporting farming and food for a better planet.

Does it matter? Does it matter that you support a zero-waste circular economy, a sustainable means of growing food and a better food future, does that matter?

Well in my book that does matter, it matters a lot.

Thank you for your support.

Kenneth

PS. Get your orders in for next week here. Fruit and veg boxes, groceries, treats and more – all organic and carefully sourced from sustainable businesses when not home grown.

Barleyotto, Roasted Carrots & Carrot Top Pesto

I’ve been cooking so much with the gorgeous, super-fresh carrots from the farm recently. Carrots are one of those staple vegetables that often get overlooked as ‘boring’ and sent to the side of the plate or the base of the meal. I love elevating these humble vegetables and making them the star of the show. Once you taste the difference between watery, bland supermarket carrots and the real deal from the farm, you’ll see why I bang on about showcasing each vegetable in its own right.

Root to Shoot

I’m sure most of you already know that the carrot tops are edible too. In this recipe, and in many of my recipes, I show you how to make a meal using the whole vegetable, root to shoot! I hate waste, not just because I don’t have the cash to splash, but also because of the environmental impact. Did you know that reducing food waste has been identified as one of the most effective ways to fight climate change? According to Stop Food Waste, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. This directly contributes to food shortages, water stress, biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, more than one quarter of food produced is wasted: with food loss and waste contributing 8-10% of total emissions. So we should all do our part in reducing food waste by learning how to use the entire vegetable and putting as little as possible in the compost bin (and certainly never put food waste in the general waste heading for landfill). Apart from the environmental issues regarding food waste, it is surprising how much important dietary fibre and incredibly powerful nutrients are found in the peels and other parts of vegetables we often throw away. Good for your body, your pocket and your planet, what’s not to like?

Ingredients (to serve 4)

Method

Start by removing the leafy tops from the carrots. Roughly chop them and put them in a food processor with the blade attachment. Then slice the carrots lengthways into halves or quarters, put them in a roasting dish, dress them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and pop them in a hot oven (180C) to roast while you get on with the barleyotto/risotto.

Peel and dice the onion and start sautéing it in a heavy bottomed pan with a little olive oil. You could also add a knob of dairy free butter to the pan for extra flavour at this stage.

Dice the celery and garlic. Add 3 cloves to to the pot (along with all the celery) and one garlic clove to the food processor where you’ll make the carrot top pesto.

Season the onion, celery and garlic with a little salt and allow it to cook down and soften a little. Then add the mug of barley grains, the glass of wine (you can replace this with a small splash of cider/white wine vinegar or the juice of a lemon), the stock cube/bouillon and 3 mugs of water. (If you are using risotto rice, add the liquid gradually, stir often and allow it to soak in before adding more). Add the drained butterbeans and let the barleyotto simmer until the grains are cooked through. Stir regularly and keep an eye on the liquid levels, you may need to add more.

While the carrots and the barleyotto/risotto are cooking, focus on the pesto.

Toast the sunflower seeds in a hot, dry frying pan until they are fragrant and start to pop and colour. Then add them to the food processor with the carrot tops and garlic.

Add the juice of half a lemon or a tbsp of cider or white wine vinegar, a few tbsp of nutritional yeast (this brings an irresistible, rich, cheesy flavour to the pesto), a pinch of salt, some freshly ground back pepper and enough olive oil to blend the pesto into a bright green sauce. If you don’t have very many carrot tops you can also add some chopped kale or spinach to the blender.

Pulse the pesto until it comes together into a loose green sauce. Then taste it and adjust the seasoning if needed with extra salt, pepper, lemon juice or olive oil as you like and blend again until you are happy with the flavour and consistency.

When the barley or risotto is cooked through, taste it and check the seasoning, adjusting it if necessary. Then serve in bowls topped with roasted carrots and carrot top pesto. Any spare pesto can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to one week. Use it in sandwiches, to top crackers or dip vegetables in, stir it through pasta or drizzle it over steamed greens or roasted vegetables.

Enjoy! 💚 Liz

Did you make this recipe? Let us know how it went in the comments and share it with us and your friends on your Facebook or Instagram. We love to see the recipes leave the blog. If you like this recipe, you’ll love my book. And don’t forget to support your local, organic farmers here by signing up for a regular veg box delivery and adding our carefully curated groceries to your order as and when you need them. Thank you!

Waterlogged but Never Wavering

When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars.

Oscar Wilde

I came out of my office last week, I had no inspiration, I didn’t have anything to write about, I definitely wasn’t in the right space and I was getting frustrated.

I decided to see what was going on out on the farm and I bumped into Emmanuel and shared my woes. Write about “Muck and rain, and mud, and clay and rain, and water because that about sums up the week just past” he said.

That was it, he had hit the nail on the head, it was wet.

Some places in the fields the water is a foot deep. The beds we planted on in the summer are submerged, the plants with waterlogged roots struggle to breath. It is ok for a few days but if there is prolonged water, then they die.

Walking up a sticky, muddy field with a bag of kale on your back must be one of the very best work outs you can get. If you have ever had a young child wrap themselves around your foot and not let you go, well that is what the field does.

I got the impression last week that even our poor tractor was not happy.

The ruts from the tractor wheeling’s are deep and although Joe (My seven year old son loves them, in fact he would actually disappear into some of them) it does not make for easy navigation when it comes to driving with a tonne of parsnips on the front of the tractor.

In the cold wet weather, you often find yourself with three or four layers of clothes on and waterproofs and wellies and sweating even though it is freezing and wet. This I think is one of my least favourite ways to pass the time.

But the sun is always there, we may not always be able to see it, but it is always up there over the clouds. It is only because of the clouds and the rain that you see the most beautiful skylines, the most stunning sunrises, and the most fantastic evening sunsets. These skyscapes are more striking at this time of the year that in high summer by a long way.

Then of course there is the food.

We are doing, I think, our bit for the planet. We are growing sustainable food on a scale that supports thousands of people each week. When I first wrote this, I thought it could not be true, but then I did the maths. If we do an average of 1500 deliveries per week and each household has an average of 3 people then that is 4500 people, that is a lot of mouths to feed, that is a large responsibility to do things right. That is a lot of trust put in us by you.

I shocked myself with that revelation, a far cry from the first 26 deliveries we did in May 2006.

So, we will get stuck in again on Monday, harvest more food, deal with the mud and the rain, do our bit for sustainable food, do our bit for climate change, because we have to.

Can you sustain a path such as this without being either clinically insane (and that could be the case) or having a belief in something bigger? For us I like to think it is the latter (but who is to say really). Our big “WHY” is the planet, nature, biodiversity, and every living creature we share this earth with deserving a chance. This is what drives us on. Have a look at our 5 Pledges for the Planet to see our promises as a business.

As always thanks for your support, it’s what keeps us going.

Kenneth

PS Don’t forget to place your order for next week here.

Who We Are

We (Jenny & Kenneth Keavey) started Green Earth Organics box delivery scheme in 2006. Our organic farm is situated 8 miles from Galway City. Originally the land was my grand-father’s and then my father’s and finally I took over the farm 14 years ago. I put the farm into conversion for organic status in 2004. 

Currently we are farming on 40 acres of organically certified land. Another 10 acres is split between, a wild life biodiversity area, native woodland forestry (3000 trees) and red clover/grassland. 

If you would like to visit our Farm Shop you can find directions to the farm here.  Or you can simply order online direct from us.

  • We deliver to every county in Ireland  click here for more details about the ordering deadline and delivery days. 

 We are certified organic by IOFGA – more info here and please note that EVERYTHING we sell is organic. 

Our aim at Green Earth Organics is to minimize the impact of our farm on the environment. We do this by growing our produce in an organic and sustainable way, by generating our own electricity using solar panels, and by harvesting the West of Ireland rainwater to wash the freshly picked veg and to water the plants in our tunnels. As a business, we are striving to be carbon neutral and we’re actively looking for ways to reduce and eliminate the plastic packaging in our boxes. 

All our boxes are PLASTIC FREE, we use plant based bags for salads and greens, but the original box is still available. We have a special ‘Zero Plastic‘ Veg box  which you can order here.  All other fresh produce is packed either loose or in brown paper bags which we take back and re-use every week. We  also have a box that contains 100% Irish Veg which you can order here. Thank you for your support – we really appreciate it.

 

Currently there are 35 employees in total – across the farm, packing team and the admin staff in both Galway and Dublin. We also take on students and interns and employ seasonal workers at certain times of the year.

We have 6 polytunnels and grow a wide range of crops both indoors and in the field. Over the course of a year a typical seasonal box will contain 80% local organic produce. We buy produce from other Irish suppliers, and we also import organically certified veg and fruit in order to be able to offer a full selection of produce year round. 

At Green Earth Organics we care deeply about the environment, and believe that people should be able to choose foods that are grown as nature intended, taste fantastic, and add to their wellbeing. We aim to have sustainability and health in the centre of all business decisions we take. 

Where to buy our produce: 

Our Choices Matter

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

– Margaret Mead

At the fork, which path will you take?

I remember as a child picking peas in my Grandad’s garden. He had apple trees, he grew his own veg. I remember sitting on his lap drinking a mug of turnip juice, (I cannot imagine trying to get my kids to do that today!) most of the food was grown on his farm. Things have changed so much in a generation…

When was the last time you tasted a freshly harvested carrot, can you remember what it should taste like? There can be such pleasure in the simple foods, and there are of course remarkable ways to cook these amazing seasonal gems.

November is still a month of local seasonal plenty. It is now that the real Irish vegetables come into their own, leeks, parsnips, swedes, kales, winter cabbage, carrots, beetroot, broccoli, romanesco and cauliflower.

As an organic farmer, the arrival of November allows a sigh of relief. The relentless pressure of the summer is finally winding down and we are settling into a routine of harvest.

The trees are turning, the wild-flowers have gone to seed, the hedgerows are full of berries, the bees are getting ready to hibernate, even the birds are relaxing a little, everything seems to slow down. Something we could all do a little bit more of.

November too can be a time for reflection. As a farmer the simple things like tree planting, growing hedgerows and leaving wild patches can give immense pleasure. This is easy stuff that pays the most amazing dividends for the person and the planet, but in modern food systems it is often dismissed as nonsensical and left to one side in favour of production. The irony of course is that food production is facilitated and improved by all these positive things.

The impact of our food choices has far reaching and sometimes unimagined consequences.

Imagine clearance of pristine forests (by burning) to facilitate increased cropping land to produce GM (genetically modified) soya destined for the global animal feed supply chain that will end up on Irish consumers plates. This is a sad reflection of our times.

 Cheap food has a price and a story. The real stories are hidden behind the glitzy shiny wrappers, there is always a story and usually not a good one.

The truth ironically can be hard to swallow, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

There are amazing and positive alternatives. Our parents chose well, they ate seasonally and locally, they ate less meat. Who doesn’t remember cabbage and turnip and the endless ways to cook potatoes!

Maybe what we eat deserves a little more consideration because our food choices matter a lot and without the planet and the food none of the other stuff matters.

We have more power than we realise, which path will you choose?

As always thanks for your support, we really appreciate it. Stay safe and look after each other.  

Kenneth & Jenny 

PS We cannot wait to tell you all about our Christmas delivery schedule and our new gifting options – stay tuned!

Support us by signing up for a regular veg box delivery here.