Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sunny Meadow Farm

Now we are entering our last week of WWOOFing in Ireland… And it has continued to rain on and off, but luckily we’ve spent the week working in polytunnels – perfect weather for it!

We’ve been enjoying it at Sunny Meadow Farm, near Portumna (pretty much in the middle of Ireland). We’ve certainly been working hard – planting LOTS of lettuce, chard, spinach. And we’ve been eating very well and very healthily, pretty much entirely organic produce, most of it direct from the farm. You really can’t compare the taste of a tomato or courgette that’s been freshly picked with the excuses for such vegetables that come from ‘super’markets (all months of the year) – eat SEASONALLY, eat FRESH, eat LOCAL and eat so much more HEALTHFULLY and DELICIOUSLY!!

We spent a day taking the tops out of the tomato plants and removing the bottom few branches to help the crop to ripen. Quite an enjoyable job, plenty to eat and we really did have green fingers at the end of it…

We have also been enjoying collecting eggs from some very happy, healthy truly free range and organic chickens, makes a nice change!

On Thursday night Dermot (our host) took us to a small town near Scarriff called Feakle where we enjoyed the craic at a traditional ‘session’ – up to 12 different musicians playing a whole range of instruments materialized at about 10 o’clock and began to play. The evening ended (quite late and after several Guinnesses!) with random members of the audience stepping forward to sing traditional songs acappella.

Yesterday we had the day off and went to visit a friend of Dermot’s who is living ‘off grid’. He has recently installed a wind turbine and a bank of batteries, so for the first time in 4 years is enjoying the conveniences that electricity can provide to his log cabin – he no longer has to read in the evenings by the light of three candles for example. We had some very interesting discussions about various topical conspiracies, and touched on issues of food security – something that we are becoming more concerned about ourselves. For us, it is food security in the sense of where our food has come from, what exactly has it been subjected to and therefore what is it that we are stuffing in our mouths and what is it then doing to us? What conditions it has been raised in (animal and vegetable) and the ethical and moral side of food production – particularly regarding animal welfare. Do you really want to eat something that has spent its entire very short life indoors, devoid of natural light, being pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics in unnatural, cramped conditions, unable to express any natural behaviours? Well, unless the chicken or pork you are eating explicitly states ‘free range’ and ‘organic’, that is exactly what you are doing. And what exactly has that vegetable you have just eaten been sprayed with to make it look so perfect (yet taste so tasteless) and how on earth has that shiny apple from New Zealand survived travelling across the world and six months in a warehouse and yet still looks so good? WWOOFing has really highlighted for us issues concerning food production that we have long wondered about, but perhaps not taken so seriously before.

But it seems that beyond the above, more and more people we are meeting on our travels are becoming increasingly concerned about food security in the sense of ‘the security of the supply’, and it seems with good reason. Leaving aside for the moment the very serious considerations of the environmental implications of our current food consumption habits, the crucial issue is one of supply in a world where population seems to be increasing exponentially (perhaps this is the factor that will become most important in future years as demand grows and viable productive land and access to cheap oil diminishes - and don't forget that fossil fuels and intensive agriculture are intrinsically linked, without the fertilizers and pesticides derived from oil and gas, intensive food production is simply unsustainable) and just how much longer can the craziness of flying produce all over the globe in order to provide a continuous supply regardless of season continue to be financially viable given the world’s current economic problems?

Is it now time to start growing some of your own food, or at least to think local and eat seasonally?!

1 comment:

  1. Good points well made kids. It's been great reading all about your adventures, but is even better hearing all the politics and reasoning behind it as you learn and appreciate more. See you next week xx (Kelly)