In this episode
In this episode we’re all about the small producers and the value of “support local” because if we don’t look after them we’re never going to fix our broken food system. Farmers and small producers face increased pressure from market forces to produce more and more for a fraction of the price that their produce is sold for. This is not sustainable for our fragile food system. One possible solution is that we need to turn to a more local based system, going direct to the food producer, shopping local, fresh and seasonal. We want to dig deeper and find out what we can and should be doing to help and support these local businesses
First up in this episode Mick is talking to a business owner who over the last year has decided to shut their doors, because of rising costs and an anticipation of falling sales prices. Mick will also be chatting to former chair of the IFA horticulture committee, Paul Brophy to see what we are doing to help farmers and producers during this cost of living crisis.
We then travel to Kerry to chat to independent veg retailer Dan Horan about the challenges of staying viable with increasing competition from the discounting supermarkets. Next Mick is off to Wicklow to celebrate one company that have manged to put sustainability at the core of their drinks business with the support of their local community.
Next Mick is visiting an entire community in Tipperary where it is all about supporting each other, Cloughjordan Community Farm. To finish we head back to GROW HQ to take part in a very special PODCAST with Jack from NeighbourFood and chat about how they are connecting small producers with a wider customer base and making it a win win for small producers and their customers.
- “Rising Cost” – Cathal Lenahan, Co. Meath
- “The Producers” – Farmer, Paul Brophy, Co Kildare
- “The Retailer” – Retailer, Dan Hornan Co Kerry
- “Local Support” – Wicklow Wolf Brewery, Quincy Fennelly, Simon Lynch, Co Wicklow
- “Community Support” – Cloughjordan Community Farm, Davie Phillips, Co Tipperary
- “Connecting Producers” – Neighbourfood, Jack Crotty, Co Limerick
Davie Philip has been active promoting sustainable community in Ireland since 1996. In 1998 he was a founding member of FEASTA: the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability and in 1999 a co-founder of Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd. the company behind the ecovillage project in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary where he is now based.
Davie currently hosts events and facilitates groups working on collaborative approaches to help their localities flourish through the Community Resilience Programme at Cultivate Living and Learning, the trading name of the Sustainable Ireland Cooperative Society that he co-founded in 2000.
Davie was one of the original catalysts of the Transition Towns process. He has created and delivered learning a number of training programmes on the theme of community resilience and in 2009 conceived and directed a 10 part TV series on community responses to climate change called the ‘Powerdown Show’.
From 2009 to 2011 he sat on the board of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and was a former director of GIY. He is active in Cloughjordan Community Farm, Ireland’s largest CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project, and is part of a new cooperative, Cloughjordan CoHousing, developing an affordable housing model. He has a passion for community, cooperatives and organisational Permaculture.
Since 2017 he has been a community catalyst for the GROW OBSERVATORY, a European funded citizen science project on soil.
Davie has sat on the Council of ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability for 4 years and in April 2019 along with Francesca Whitlock of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Europe was elected as ECOLISE co-presidents. https://www.ecolise.eu
21 years ago, Dan Horan was working in the Fruit & Veg department of Quinns worth in Tralee. With the foresight of the true entrepreneur, he ignored the incredulity of his employers and opened an opposition fruit & veg store directly across the road. Just over two decades later he has renowned fruit & veg outlets in Mallow, Fermoy, Kilmallock, Newcastlewest, Listowel; two in Killarney and three in Tralee.
His vision expanded seven years ago when, having introduced a very successful health food section to one of his stores in Tralee, he and his team decided to separate the two entirely complementary elements of the business and introduce Health Food Stores in their own right.
The group now also has ten Health Food Stores; two in Killarney and Tralee, and one each in Listowel, Fermoy, Cashel, Mitchelstown, Youghal and Mallow.
Jack Crotty is a trained chef who owns The Rocket Man Food Co in Cork. He set up NeighbourFood in 2018 and lives in Cork with his partner and two children.
NeighbourFood is a system where producers can get food direct to the customer, without having to do every part of the chain themselves and without having to stand in the rain at a market and deal directly with every customer.
Paul Brophy Produce is a family owned business based in Naas, Co. Kildare. It was founded in 1983 by Paul Brophy. The company specialises in the growing, packing and distribution of broccoli and cabbage. Started in 1983 with 2 hectares, and today we are growing 240 hectares. The largest broccoli producer on the island of Ireland.
Opportunities for the Irish Horticulture Sector- report commissioned by Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine
Retail Price Compression Threatens the Viability of Irish Horticulture- report commissioned by Irish Farmers Association
Co-Founder of Wicklow Wolf. Their mission is to brew exceptional beers without compromise and with true passion. Independently brewed for independent minds. They are locally rooted and at one with nature, brewing beers in a sustainable way.
In 2022 Wicklow Wolf have taken their commitment to sustainability one step further, and have commissioned the installation of over 120Kw of solar panels, covering the entirety of the 17,000 sq ft brewery roof.
Meath cabbage grower Cathal Lenehan who over the last year has decided to give up his business because of rising costs.
Food growing is often seen as an off-the-grid self-sufficiency movement. In reality, most people would be doing well to grow just 1% of their own food. But by growing that 1%, it changes how you think about the other 99%.
When you appreciate the time and energy involved and the quality of the final product when given all that care, the inevitable result is the desire to find and support the next best thing to homegrown: buying from a LOCAL, SMALL PRODUCER and trust me in their ever-changing world, now more than ever they need our support.
Nowadays the word, ‘sustainable’, has become a bit overused, maybe even tarnished by the overuse by the corporate world. Indeed, sometimes the pursuit of profits takes away from sustainability and this can have an adverse effect on small local producers.
If we don’t support local, small producers, the consequences are simple: small producers will go out of business (as we have seen in this episode), closing their doors and shutting up shop.
The loss to our land and our economy, to us as consumers is incalculable. We lose their quality, seasonal produce, we lose their jobs and we lose their food production expertise.
Imagine if we were able to scale this up and more and more people began to buy local and buy direct from producers? Could this be a solution to our flawed food system?
The transportation, processing, packaging and retailing of food products from around the world to our kitchens has a massive carbon footprint, creating tonnes of emissions that cause climate change. Then climate impacts, like floods and drought, affect vulnerable famers and communities causing them to lose their livelihoods or even their homes.
Flying in food typically creates around 10 times more carbon emissions than road transport and around 50 times more than shipping.
The biggest part of a food’s carbon footprint often comes from production, not transportation, but where our food comes from and how it gets to us is something we should be mindful of when making choices when we shop.
Buying food that is local and in season is great way to ensure the environmental impact is low. Farmers all over the country rely on our purchasing power for their livelihoods, and how we spend our money can help small producers thrive or leave them struggling to survive at the hands of bigger corporations.
We are part of a globalised food system but as much as possible we should be focused on creating and being part of a vibrant local food network and at the heart of this is community – a community of food producers and the community of customers.
Did You Know?
Let’s look at some examples.
A punnet of local in-season strawberries has a carbon footprint of 150g CO2e. On the other hand, a punnet of out-of-season, air-freighted strawberries has a carbon footprint that is 12 times higher at 1800g CO2e.
So, eating imported strawberries in January makes little sense, especially when it comes to food sustainability. However, eating Irish strawberries bought from a food stall at the side of the road in summer makes perfect sense. Not only is it better for the environment, but they taste so much better too.
But what about foods that can’t be grown in Ireland and have to be imported? What choices can you, the consumer, make to ensure local small producers in other countries are fairly treated? Coffee is in such demand and traded so frequently, its price changes every three minutes. The global scale of the coffee industry is tremendous. About 125 million people are dependent on coffee farming around the world. But how much do we really know about our cup of Joe? 61% of coffee growers sell their coffee for a loss – this is no different to our farmers in Ireland being under paid for their vegetables or their milk.
A study carried out by True Price and Fairtrade International found that 100% of Kenyan farmers, 25% of Indian farmers and about 35-50% of both Indonesian and Vietnamese farmers do not earn enough to live on from growing and selling coffee. If they did, the impact on the wellbeing of their communities would be transformative.
We can’t grow coffee in Ireland, so how can we be sure our coffee is good for the farmers who grow it and good for the environment? Well, we can look for quality marks like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance that assure us that environmental and social standards have been met in producing the coffee.
he further away the food is produced, the more these labels are essential in letting us, the consumer, know that the food and producer can be trusted.
Did You Know?
Practical Steps you can take
Supporting small producers can make a real difference when it comes to all three of the sustainability pillars of environment, social and economic. These are 3 actions to take when buying food:
- Buy local and in-season, because the shorter the journey your food makes, the more sustainable it is. So, whether you’re shopping at your local supermarket or grabbing something from a corner shop, try to buy locally grown and in-season products.
- Ask your regular food shop to stock more local items. The more we encourage suppliers to stock local foods the more choice we will have as consumers.
- If your budget allows, don’t buy the special offers, particularly on veg – they are causing our veg growers to go out of business and are terrible for food waste. Remember there is always a cost to cheap food.
- Buy ethical. We want to support farmers in other parts of the world growing crops we value. So, look for the Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance marks to know farmers and producers are receiving a fair wage and that their local environment is being protected.
- Support a CSA or farmers market – buying directly from food producers is a brilliant way to support local. CSA’s give farmers and food producers a more certain income.