The Mystery Smell on my holidays and Absence of Butterflies
If there is one thing that the French are renowned for is their food. This year we drove to France for our holidays and had a very pleasant time in the beautiful country. Apart from one tiny, weeny, mishap of nearly not getting on the ferry due to a missing passport, (My oldest daughter Hannah found it just in time), we had a fantastic time.
Meanwhile in the time we were away, the farm has come on in massive leaps and bounds, the rich fresh harvest, the smells and tastes of the vegetables now is better than ever, and nearly all the contents in our seasonal boxes are from our farm or from other local farms. You couldn’t choose a better time to rekindle a local, healthy eating routine.
They say you shouldn’t take your work on holiday with you and it was with a touch of irony that we ended up trading our own farm for an area in France where we were surrounded by cabbages and artichokes!
One evening while we were sitting outside in the glorious sunshine, there was a very strange and unpleasant chemical smell. The house we were staying in was surrounded by trees and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but I was curious.
I walked out on to the road to have a look around. The surrounding countryside was predominately vegetable growing land, with three main crop types cabbage, artichoke, and corn. Close to where we were staying were fields and fields of winter cabbage. The smell I discovered was drift from a massive sprayer on the back of a tractor, the conventional farmer was out spraying his cabbage. In the end we decided to go indoors. In the space of 7 days I spotted that sprayer in the fields twice.
My best guess was the conventional farmer was spraying for caterpillars and not once did I see any white butterflies hovering over the crop. A fact that perplexed me even more than this, was the complete absence of pigeons, and I couldn’t figure out if the farmer applied something to make the plants unpalatable to pigeons or if they were all disappearing into a giant pigeon stew pot somewhere!
A field of young brassicas plants on our organic farm would be devastated in a day or two by a family of enthusiastic pigeons if left uncovered. Back in Galway on our organic farm all the brassicas are neatly snuggled under a fleece to keep them safe from white butterfly and our number one arch rival: Pigeons.
Another remarkable point that struck me in France was that the fields were completely clean and yet (a term used to denote weed free) I didn’t see any mechanical weeding taking place while we were there. Whether the farmer was using chemical weed control while the plant was growing I can’t say, but there was plenty of evidence of the use of Roundup prior to preparing the ground for planting.
This was completely at odds with what was evident in the shops and at markets there. In one town there were three organic farmers market stalls. The supermarkets had complete aisles dedicated to organic produce. Everywhere you looked there was the “BIO” sign. It seems that there is a massive consumer awareness and demand for organic food in France. France is progressive when it comes to the environment and has been pushing for a EU wide ban on Roundup for some time, but it takes time for change to come.
Back here in Ireland there is more and more people choosing healthy sustainable food, people pausing and thinking about their food choices, being more mindful of what is in and on our food and where it comes from. For me - smelling that chemical smell really brought home why I started our farm and reminded me of why we eat the way we do.
Here’s to healthy eating.
P.S. Thank you to all of our customers who took part in our “Pay it Forward” initiative over the Summer months. You helped deliver over 350+ hot meals to people in need. Thank you for your kindness it is really appreciated by us, the charities involved and also the happy diners! We will be continuing this scheme going forward so if you wish to donate a delivery of organic veg to charity, please do not hesitate to get in touch.