Growing and buying local

IT’S hardly a thought uppermost in their minds, but people working in their gardens these days, as they prepare to grow their own vegetables, are helping to make the world a better and healthier place.

Growing, and buying, local has less of an impact on the environment.

With onions being imported from Holland, carrots from Spain and, even more bizarre, lamb from New Zealand, the cost of transporting food to Ireland leaves a carbon footprint and generates more greenhouse gases.

In 2011, despite being a so-called ‘’food island’’, we imported €5bn worth of food and drinks (some of these goods are also produced here) and exported €9bn worth. Even more difficult to understand is the fish situation — around 70% of fruits des mer landed in Ireland is exported and 70% of what we eat is imported, much of it from Iceland.

Clearly, a great deal of energy is used in bringing all that food here from far-flung corners of the globe by plane, ship and truck. However, one of the positive effects of austerity is that more people are again growing their own vegetables, allotments are back in vogue and farmers’ markets are thriving.

Some readers may have work in the garden planned for the bank holiday today.

Traditionally, St Patrick’s Day is a target date for setting early potatoes and I plan to do exactly that today, hoping that the Home Guard and Sharpe’s Express varieties will be nicely sprouted for planting.

Blackbirds are busy picking the turned earth on the plot and are finding a plentiful supply of worms. The ground is ready, dried farmyard manure has been dug in and all that is needed is a bit of warm weather to give the seed spuds a good start in the ground.And then you just watch and wait. There’s a sort of primal joy felt when the first stalks begin to peep through the soil in late spring or early summer, amid hopes that sufficient ‘’earthing up’’ will prevent any frost damage.

There’s still a thrill in putting home produce on the kitchen table. Growing your own vegetables, or buying local, is good for the world. Without ever calculating the impact of food production and worldwide transport of same, the storage of food alone is said to be the largest single use of energy globally.

Having it all at home further benefits the environment as it means less packaging and less transport — never mind the fact that the food usually tastes a lot better.


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