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.