“Be the change you wish to see in the world” Meet a Farmer

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” Meet a Farmer

“I am only one, But still I am one. I cannot do everything, But still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do” – Edward Everett Hale. Meet Fair Food Farmer Kate from An Ghrian Glas Farm in Westmeath. An ecologist by trade and in heart, she did what many of us say when thinking about issues in food, farming and the Natural World; she decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world…..

An Ghrian GlasTell us a little about you?

We are a small 9 acre market garden. While we are not certified we do not use any synthetic chemicals, fertilisers or pesticides. We have only just begun, having started one year ago. Prior to farming, I am a trained ecologist and have worked in environmental education and advocacy. After ten years of teaching people about how to protect our environment, I wished to take action myself. Aside from producing healthy, local and chemical free food, the other main focus of our farm is encouraging biodiversity, protecting wildlife and food security in a changing climate. To this end we are creating wildflower meadows, painting hedgerows, creating wildlife ponds, planting a native woodland and a food forest/agroforestry project.

What approach do you take in the production of food?

We use a blend of permaculture techniques, organic processes, agroforestry approaches and restoration agriculture. We are working hard to create healthy, organic and biodiverse soil. We only cultivate one of 9 acres for vegetable growing, the rest is being planted as a mix of agroforestry, fruit and nut trees and native woodland.

How do you protect, conserve, maintain soil health and quality?

To build soil fertility and health, we use a mycorrhizal fungi innoculant on all the trees and shrubs we plant. We have horses on the farm and their manure, along with the pig and chicken manure is kept and composted and added to the soil throughout the year. To avoid using herbicides, we use black plastic, cardboard and straw to mulch the areas and clear the soil of undesired plants. We use intercropping, chickens, ducks and support wildlife on the farm to reduce the impacts of pests such as slugs, snails, weevils etc. We use bionetting to combat other pests like carrot fly and cabbage butterflies.

Given our Worlds Extinction Crisis; How do you contribute to the protection or conservation of biodiversity on your farm?

Supporting biodiversity on our farm is highly important to us. We do not feel it is enough to just keep a separate area for wildlife on the farm but aim to integrate it throughout the entire property. A network of ponds, to manage water drainage and provide habitat for native species, a native woodland with species useful for coppicing in time, we have kept and maintain the original hedgerows and a small ash grove, an organic fruit and nut orchard which we aim to plant up with pollinating plants to support our pollinators and help our orchard flourish. So far we have planted over 200 native trees and 150 food producing trees and shrubs.

An Ghrian Glas Free Range HensHow do you manage the farms livestock?

Everyone lives a free range life on our farm. We use organic feed for the chickens and pigs. However this is heavily supported by fruit and vegetable waste from the farm, along with what they eat around the farm during the spring and summer. The animals always have access to an outdoor area all year round.

We do not use antibiotics at all, we use faecal worm counts for the horses and worm only when necessary. We use diatomaceous clay for chickens and ducks both in their feed and in their coop to manage pests. We also have extremely low stocking densities, just 3 pigs in one year for personal use, one pet pig, 3 horses for hobby use, 13 chickens and 6 ducks, it is intended to expand the flock no. but only to a max of 50.

Where can people find you and your Fair Food

We do weekly Vegetable Box Scheme with drop offs in Ballymahon (Wednesdays – Main Street) and Athlone (Fridays – Market square). We pack our veg boxes with the best and freshest produce available on the farm. Each week customers receive a message with what is in the box that week and can order in advance of the drop off day.

We hold a weekly stall at the market square from 10am-2pm in Athlone Town, in the Market square (the car park beside the castle). There we bring all the fresh produce harvested from the farm within the last 24hrs, you can purchase what you need at the stall. Every thursday I post on Facebook what we will have on the market the next day.

We are honoured to supply to some of the best restaurants in Westmeath and Longford. If you are a business interested in our produce, please contact me for further information and a price list.

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