Roscommon farmer reserves land with Ukrainians in mind
Tommy Earley’s farm in Mount Allen, Co Roscommon has always been a welcoming place for visitors. But this year, he’s setting aside two of his 100 acres for vegetables with recent arrivals from Ukraine in mind.
The organic cattle farmer says the Russian invasion made him think not just about the threat to food supplies, but also about the plight of families recently forced to flee their own country.
A member of the Leitrim Organic Farmers’ Co-Op, Earley plans to grow two acres of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and other vegetables to sell locally. He also wants Ukrainians to come and grow produce for their own use.
“The plan is to get people here into a housing estate type situation,” Earley says.
He expects to be joined by some of the co-op’s 200 members when he launches the community garden.
Having in the past grown enough potatoes and other vegetables for his family, Earley believes the war highlights the need for more produce to be grown, sold and consumed locally.
“We grew up hearing about wars, but it wasn’t very real to us,” says Earley, who also works to protect habitats on his land by “rewetting” 25 acres of raised bog.
The farmer says the uncertainty caused by the war highlights the need for people to think about where their food comes from.
“We don’t know in which direction it will go but, whatever happens, we will have to be able to feed ourselves and take care of ourselves and I think our strength will be to work collectively”, he adds. “The field is there. He can grow crops. It’s about getting organized and getting the crops out.
While some farmers are wary of the idea of diversifying their areas of specialization, Earley looks forward to the challenge of growing crops such as potatoes, even though it can be labor intensive.
“I’m interested in vintage machinery and I have a few small tractors that can do a lot of that work,” he says.
The fleet at his farm near Arigna Mountain includes five vintage Massey Ferguson tractors and implements he uses for farm work like a potato planter.
“It’s a box in the back of the tractor and with a bell attached and you put the seed potato in it and every time the bell rings the guy in the back of the tractor drops the seed into a pipe in the ground,” he explains. .
Earley, who remembers the days when his late father James plowed with a horse on the farms of the Arigna Valley, said vintage tractors are much lighter on diesel than the powerful machines seen in many many modern farms, an important consideration at the moment with fuel prices. so high.
“And the big powerful yokes you see these days can still only carry one bale at a time,” he adds.
Earley says he hopes Ukrainians who settle in the area can enjoy some peace of mind on his land.
“God help them, it’s hard to understand what we watch on TV,” he said. “Apart from everything else, it would be nice for them to get out of the house and have something to do. Let them grow a wick of flowers if they want or whatever they want to grow.