After what has been as tough year on everyone, Conor and our farm team were delighted to get back out planting in March. There is just something inherently hopeful and positive about planting.
They started with our early potatoes, Queens variety, in the light ground we have, helped along by good planting conditions. There was no rain to delay planting but the cold temperatures we have experienced since planting means that the earlies' crop growth is a bit behind where we would like it to be. For the sake of both potatoes and people alike, we are hoping for a nice warm summer so that both harvesting of our Queens and good BBQs will be on schedule!
Similar conditions for the planting of the main crop potatoes have allowed us to finish all the sowing with no breaks for rain. Again though, we would like to see higher temperatures so that the potatoes can keep up a good growth rate. By September or October when these are harvested, they will hopefully have received just the right combination of heat and water to thrive and produce our usual high standard of floury, tasty potatoes!
Our carrots are almost finished with just a few fields yet to be planted. Unlike potatoes, which are harvested all at once when they mature and put in cold store to use as needed throughout the year, carrots are harvested to order. Their crunchiness and bright orange zing are a result of getting pulled out of the ground and whisked away to the supermarket shelf as quickly as possible, the only slight delays being for quality checks, washing and packing!
Crop rotation ensures that humus and micro-organisms can build up in the soil and has long been practiced by ourselves and many generations of farmers before us. Building up humus (organic material) and micro-organisms is very important for soil health and fertility, as well as carbon sequestration. Crop rotation can help accomplish this by exposing the soil to different types of crops and different conditions.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is another system that we and other progressive growers practice. This involves continual monitoring of the crop and implementing a combination of approaches to avoid increasing risks associated with pests (weeds, insects, diseases and molluscs). An example might be using one pest that doesn't harm our crop to fight off another that does. The ultimate aim is to use less artificial or chemical crop inputs, thereby decreasing our carbon footprint.
In addition to our crop rotation and IPM, we are also planting pollinator strips this year to allow our bees some unfettered natural habitat in our fields with pollinator friendly wildflowers such as dandelion, dead nettle and clover. As part of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, we are doing our bit to keep our bee population healthy. We will update you shortly with a report on our hives from Ken Boyle our resident beekeeper.
We hope that all our measures to be more sustainable will be joined by many other initiatives across the globe so that our climate is a bit healthier.
And more immediately, we all hope that when these crops are harvested come October they will be brought in by our field team, checked by quality staff and packed by production staff who are all vaccinated. We hope that they can be enjoyed by families gathering with other families at dinner tables or by groups of friends dining indoors in restaurants. Here's to new beginnings and never taking anything for granted again.