Timing. It is all about timing. There has been an exceptional amount of progress on the farm in the last couple of weeks and it was topped off on Wed night by just the right amount of rainfall. It is, for a vegetable farmer one of the most satisfying feelings, and can be rare enough, but on this occasion it was perfect timing.
Over the past two weeks we have been very busy, sowing and transplanting, thousands of lettuce plants, thousands of brassicas, which are the kales, cabbages, and broccolis. Thousands of beetroot, spinach, onions, leeks, and salad have all of gone into the ground.
My grandmother used to say there was no better feeling that lying in bed listening to the sound of rain on the window, I would add there is no better feeling than lying in bed listening to the rain knowing all your little plants in the fields are getting well and truly soaked.
Two years we have been preparing this ground for sowing, two years of red clover and grass, to improve fertility and to make the soil healthy. We have applied natural fertiliser and rock dust to improve the fertility further. Now finally we have plants in the ground and the weed control starts, and this is done by people and machines. This is an organic production system, if involves careful and sustainable management of the land. It takes time and it involves many people.
If you contrast that with conventional production, there is no fertility building step, there is no need for so many people as chemicals are routinely used to treat the ground, firstly to kill the plants, then to treat pests and finally to treat disease. It is a quick fix and it is not good for the food, for the plants, for the land, for the biodiversity and ultimately not good for us.
Organic agriculture produces better, healthier food, if not for the very fact that there are no chemicals, studies have shown it has higher nutrient content also.
On that same Wednesday evening as we were finishing up sowing, I spotted a bunch of young cattle peering over the wall curiously observing all our goings on. All around us on any three of our separate farm areas we are surrounded by grass and cattle. At the very same time cattle farmers are struggling to survive, now could be the best time for a change.
There must be a way to do things differently, is now an opportunity to look at different options? Can the system change fast enough to allow farmers to take the first tentative steps in a new direction? It will certainly not be easy, and yes of course there will be loads of unknowns with so much change. But one thing we have learned in the current circumstances is that change can come suddenly and ferociously and can affect us all. So as food producers we need to adapt before change is forced on us.
Timing really is everything, and there couldn’t be a better opportunity than now to revaluate priorities and make the changes that will ultimately give us a better society.
PS We had five different small organic farmers ring us to ask if we would take their produce in the last few days and we took it all, so Irish lettuce from three different farms, Irish salad from another and Irish spinach from another!
PPS you can order now for delivery to your door next week!