Our current relationship with nature and in particular food, is an imbalanced one. On the one hand, we need nature to continuously supply us with healthy and nutritious food for ourselves, our families and our communities. Yet on the other hand, we are also pushing the limits of what nature can provide because we have an imbalanced system.
Cheap, imported food (usually through budget retailers, often selling below the cost of producing it) has put huge pressure on farmers throughout the EU. Ireland is no exception.
Soil health and the health of our communities are also under pressure. Conventional farmers feel they have to use synthetic chemical fertilisers and chemicals for pest and disease control in order to maximise their yield in order to survive. It is a chaotic and unsustainable system. However, the farming sector is changing in Ireland. Irish people are becoming more aware of the value of nutritious food and how it plays a vital role on our physical and mental health.
The organic movement was the beginning of this change. As time has progressed other farmers, like myself, have looked farther afield for other methods of natural farming which complement organic vegetable farming. Travelling and living in countries throughout Asia I saw first hand how other cultures used their land and the technology they were using without the need for heavy machinery or man-made chemicals.
On my return home, I noticed there were not many vegetable farmers in County Limerick who were supplying their local communities. I wanted to be a person who could grow healthy, naturally-grown vegetables that were nutrient-dense just like they were before food was grown using chemicals. Farmers are guardians of the soil. Our duty is to protect it and enhance it. To put in more than we take out. To understand that soil health is directly related to the soil's biological life.
We do not use tractors or heavy machinery on our micro-farm. We use hand tools that have been designed by farmers for farmers. New technologies in synergy with age-old techniques. We incorporate lean management practices to allow focus our attention on growing the best possible produce for our local community.
Local food is not just a catchphrase. It means supporting and strengthening the people who live with us and around us. It creates jobs and keeps money in the local area. Cheap imports, and imports in general, means less money for us all. Without jobs, people seek employment in larger towns and cities leading to decline of communities. But change is happening in Ireland. We are beginning to realise the favourable climate we have to produce wonderful products, be it vegetables, fruit, dairy or meat. People want food that is fresh and nutritious.
Moreover, children living in towns and cities do not know where their food comes from. The majority of children have not seen tomatoes or cucumbers ripening on vines, lettuce growing in neat rows in a field. Or carrots and potatoes hiding under the surface of the soil.
We at "New Leaf Urban Farmers" would like to change this relationship. To educate children about the importance of healthy food choices, food security and food sovereignty.