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12 years ago Jenny and I decided it was time for a change. We decided we would leave our jobs and move back to Ireland and start an organic farm. It was a scary moment.
The idea of using chemicals on our land and food was something that seemed wrong to me, I didn’t need my years working in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry to know that it was wrong.
The general consensus when we returned to Ireland was that we had lost the run of ourselves, leaving two professional careers behind to grow vegetables in the west of Ireland was nothing short of madness, the men in the white coats would be along any moment to take us away.
I remember very clearly a friend of the family coming to visit the “farm”. Back then it was 1 acre, and we had a serious out of control weed epidemic. The man wandered around and shook his head, his solution was “you need to use roundup to get rid of those weeds”, I politely told him that was not going to happen and I would find another way. That year we were not very successful with the weed control but we learned and the next year we were ready for the weeds.
It was some years later and we were taking the final tranch of the farm into production. This particular field had been sown with red clover 2 years earlier to enrich the fertility, but unfortunately we had inherited a major dockleaf problem. Dockleaves are very prolific and a difficult weed to remove. We assessed the situation and asked the best prevailing advice on how to deal with the problem. The solution: “spray with roundup”.
The whole organic farming message was still not getting through. “No thank you, we will find a way”
The misguided truth is this acceptance that chemicals are the cure and the solution. Conventional agriculture and conventional medicine have a lot in common here. Modern medicine is fantastic and I spent a good portion of my life researching and developing new compounds to treat disease. But by treating the symptoms you often miss out on the underlying cause, and this is what really needs to change. It is the same for agriculture, yes “Roundup” will clear the weeds, but they will be back again and again year after year, “Roundup” is not the answer.
Of course we did not use ‘Roundup’, we cut the grass, we ploughed the field and we went through that 4 acre field and removed the dock leaf roots by hand. We no longer have a dock problem. We put in place a rotation to help reduce weed and disease pressure and this field is now vibrant and producing the very best food.
The problem with agri-chemicals is hinted at in their name herbicide, pesticide, bactericide, fungicide. The ….cide part is the problem, they kill living organisms, they are toxic.
Of course we all want vibrant healthy food. For me starting an organic farm was about this, about producing the best possible food, but it was also about protecting our environment. It was about taking a stand against the large agribusinesses and the related corporate greed that are systematically destroying our planet. There is nothing sustainable about the modern food production system, it is systematically poisoning us and our planet in the name of progress. I have talked to many conventional farmers that would drop the chemicals in an instant if there was a system there to support them.
Our food choices are so important. They are important because they can lead to enhanced vitality for ourselves and our family, they can lead to the expansion and the development of a sustainable agricultural system, that in turn can ensure the nurturing of our planet. We desperately need to adopt a new approach.
Here’s to a world full of food that nourishes.
PS from the farm this week, we have lovely organic salad, organic cabbage, organic rocket, organic kale, organic spinach, organic scallions and organic cucumber, the list is growing every week. To see all Irish and farm product click here.