Spring has well and truly sprung out here at Beechlawn. Mornings are warmer and brighter now, the increased sunlight bringing with it a fresh new energy around the farm. Coming in off the back of a very good winter, crops have stood up well in the field, and our harvesters are working their way through the remaining kale; cabbage; beets; leeks; and tender broccoli, which all require harvesting every 3 or 4 days. Fridges are stocked up with our Donegal Potatoes so we should have enough supply until the harvest of early potatoes in late June.
This week the first spinach, lettuce, and scallion plants have been planted out from their trays into the tunnels, and these should be ready to harvest in May. The soil in the tunnel is fed with compost, and the tunnels cleaned down to let more light in. New roots are bursting to stretch out and take in all the nutrients from the soil which are created from the bacteria and protozoa breaking the compost down.
When myself and Una started out, we had a vision to make Ireland an Organic Island, and we still have that vision, taking on what we can manage, expanding the farm. To this end we are becoming commited members of the Bord Bia Origin Green sustainability programme. We are starting into our 15th growing season on the farm, and it will be the first year that we will sell all the crops that we’ve grown on the farm. It is important for a vegetable farm not to be ploughing or composting unsold vegetables. Especially, we hate to see waste after all the time and energy put into growing a crop.
One problem where we encounter waste is in supplying large pack houses to specification, or “Spec”. For example, when we supply leeks, the minimum spec weight is 100gm; min spec length is 40cm; the leaves cannot be torn; and the veg must be perfectly clean. Sometimes much more attention is given to how a crop looks rather than what’s in it. This is a constant challenge for farmers, and particularly for us as our own farm expands.
We are saying goodbye to our good friend Shane who is setting off on his travels, and we welcome the new team of students, volunteers, and staff members coming in behind him. Una and myself, and the whole team on the farm thank you for your continued support, we wish you a happy St Patricks Day holiday weekend, and we look forward to meeting you at the Galway Food Festival at Easter.
Slán go fóill,