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SUSTAINABILITY Small producers need space to sell

Outdoor Living
Small producers can find it difficult to find an outlet for their produce that does not come with prohibitive rent, rates and insurance costs.
HENS’ TEETH Small producers can find it difficult to find an outlet for their produce that does not come with prohibitive rent, rates and insurance costs.


Do we have to go to outer space for free space?


Producing food has many hidden costs, but selling it should not be one of them

Food matters
Chris Brown


I like to think of weeding the vegetable patch as an enjoyable opportunity to be outside in the lovely fresh air that our fantastic climate is blessed with – and this approach does help, because it’s easy enough to imagine being on hands and knees pulling weeds as a bothersome chore.
Along with the other tasks to do with soil management, like sowing, planting out, watering and harvesting, weeding is an excellent form of exercise, keeping both body and mind in a state of healthy well-being. To me, it makes a lot more sense than plugging into some aimless machine to take repetitive excises, like the sort some gymnasiums offer these days.
Growing vegetables is not easy and the journey from sowing seeds to harvest time does not come without effort; if the plants don’t get the attention they need and your patch is neglected, it is possible to have a harvest so poor it’s not worth gathering in: so the stakes are high!
The price of seeds is also high, which makes it easy to lose money when growing your own food if things go wrong. A packet of eight cucumber seeds cost me €4 in Westport this year, so if they keel over through lack of attention it will be an expensive failure, and one that I’ll have to bear the cost of.
If you are serious about getting good results from your vegetable beds (and I am) you’ll have to work hard and put aside several hours every week to carry out the work that’s needed, or else get someone else to do those hours.
Paid labour is something we should be encouraging. We badly need to learn how to grow food effectively without harming our fragile earth, yet how can we find the money to pay people to take to the spade?
The only real way to ensure that Mayo’s fruit and vegetables will be cultivated each year, and to encourage more people to take up the challenge of growing, is to establish a market for those beautiful leeks, lettuce and cabbages and other bounties of the earth.
If you want to support the growing of local food then make it your mission to buy some! If the costs of seeds, tools, transport, storage, fuel, labour and the rest are to be met, it’s clear that surplus crops will need to be sold, but where can you sell them?
Importantly, where can produce (primary foods) be sold where other unnecessary costs are not added on, forcing the price up; a procedure which defeats us all. I’d like to suggest the concept of a free space.

Free space
In theory, free space is a place that, if you have produced something that falls into the category of ‘primary produced food’, you can sell this produce without any burden of rent, rates or insurance. That way, it doesn’t cost anything extra. Such extra cost is ultimately a cost to the customer, and it just doesn’t need to be there.
This is the era of environmental mis-management, and we know that ways of feeding ourselves without the need to use oil and other finite fuels to transport foods around the world are needed – and needed quickly. A suitable and rewarding way to sell food is the best encouragement to attract more people, and we need more people, lots more, to start enterprises on the land and help to meet our own food demands.
With zero extras to be added on to the price of local food, delicious stuff we all need, the price can be kept down.
The suggestion of a free table – whether weekly, monthly or seasonally – where Mayo food would be available should not be beyond us. Why should such a simple solution intimidate us? A free space would be a good place to buy from, a good place to sell from and a good place to share knowledge (perhaps about weeding).

NEXT TIME Buying or selling?

Chris Brown is a food producer in Louisburgh. He has a particular interest in food miles and buying local.