Welcome to our winter newsletter. I would like to wish all our customers and friends a happy Christmas. For very many people 2011 has been one of the toughest years in an awful long time, but as always all we can do is stick to our own individual task and keep the best face out.
Social media is the term used to
describe various online computer applications which allow us all to
communicate. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular just now, and I
have been using them quite a bit in the past year. In a sense, they are
like this newsletter, except that on social media we can say (write)
things fairly instantly, and people can comment back, or send it on to
others on the network.
So while I am not trying to make an excuse for not sending out the newsletter as often as we did, I am at least still writing, and hopefully listening, out there somewhere in cyberspace. In fact, not only am I writing, but I can also put up pictures, links to interesting articles, or even to videos or TV programs, which is all very exciting.
If you have not tried facebook or twitter, they are not too difficult to use. With a smartphone you can access them directly, or from the internet, you’ll find them at facebook.com and twitter.com.
If you would like to keep up to date with what we are at on the farm, on twitter you can follow @theapplefarmer (that’s me), or on facebook just search for The Apple Farm and click “like” for our page.
While you are on facebook or twitter,
you may be able to keep up with a few of our (ex) employees, who have
headed to Australia, partly for adventure, partly for better
opportunities, and partly, I suspect, because so many of their friends
are there. In this year alone, the most recent to go is Roisin, who was
in the shop for the past few years, and only left a week ago. Many of
you will also remember Avril from The Farmers’ Market in Cahir. She’s
currently in Melbourne, having left earlier in the year.
Of course it is tough on the friends and family who stay behind here in Ireland, and also on those who have to go. It’s not too bad if you know you are only going for a while, but when you’re not sure if you will ever be back permanently, then to go at all is really a hard decision to make.
I suppose that is why, it is up to us who are left here, especially a family like our own, (for my parents left Holland 45 years ago to come to Ireland), to ensure that the country is transformed over the next decade, into a place that our emigrants can return to, and that has opportunities for all the young people that want to live here.
The easy part is saying it, but the hard part is doing it; making hard choices, making sacrifices, and putting our trust in leaders who will put the country ahead of themselves.
We have not had leaders like this for quite some time, but then, many of us were not the best at making sacrifices ourselves either. In truth, we got the leaders we elected.
Our future leaders will need to make decisions with the impact in 20-50 years time in mind, rather than considering the next election. Are there people like that out there? I don’t know yet, but if we raise our children right, these are the type of citizens we ought to be producing.
For my part, I will be doing my utmost to operate and develop our own little farm, so that it may continue to provide jobs, food, and joy, and so that what we sell is produced in a way that impacts positively both in the present and the future.
We have our usual range of apples,
including really beautiful Elstar, as well as that traditional
favourite, Karmijn de Sonnaville. We are nearly out of out super-sharp
eater, Topaz, but will soon have lovely sweet Pinova. Bramley cookers
are also available, as are Golden Delicious. Jonagold will also be
available quite soon.
We also promise to have at least one type of eating apple on sale at 5 euros per box at all times, which is a lower price than even the “best” special offers in any supermarket, and of course our apples are much nicer.
In addition, we have a number of new products especially for Christmas, the most seasonal of which is our mulled apple juice. This is a juice with spices, which makes a lovely warm drink, but without the alcohol. Simply heat before serving, and warm yourself up on a cold winter’s evening.
Our juices are as popular as ever and really good value, with a case of 12 large bottles flying out both to people who call in and by courier as Christmas gifts. If fact, if you like you can even include a personal message when ordering online, and we will include it with the box when sending to your lucky friends.
The sparkling juice is going from strength to strength, with people coming from all over Ireland to get it, as well as online orders.
All the juices and jams make a great Christmas present, either in a presentation basket or bag, or with a few fruits. The apple jelly goes especially well as a glaze for the Christmas ham.
Lastly, we have hampers of juices, jams and fruit in our farm shop. A popular and practical Christmas gift.
Everyone knows Bulmers. They sell hundreds of millions of pints of cider each year, and their adverts always make me smile. In the last few years, a few tiny cidermakers have started their own ventures in Ireland. First there was David Llewellyn, and now there are two more that I know quite well; William O’Callagan of Longueville House and Daniel Emerson of Stonewell Cider. Both make excellent ciders. William’s is full of traditional cider apples, which makes it a real west-country type cider, as it would be known in the UK. Daniel’s is less tannic, but also excellent. If you get a chance to try either, I would highly recommend them.
During the summer I received an
unexpected invitation. Bord Fáilte and Bord Bia were jointly promoting
Ireland by hosting a tour of Ireland for food writers from various
high-profile international newspapers and magazines (Vogue was one of
these if I remember correctly).
As part of this, they were organizing a meal in Trinity College Dublin, where the food writers would get to meet some producers, taste their foods, and then have a meal made using these same ingredients. To make it even better, Neven Maguire was cooking the meal.
So along we went, set up stall, and explained all about our produce in the pre-meal reception. Then, on to a meal where we all ate what Neven prepared, and continued to talk with the writers, about Ireland, Irish food, our food history and culture and so on. A few speeches later, and it was all over, but suffice to say that the meal prepared by Neven was top notch, and the food writers were very impressed with what Ireland had to offer the foodie tourist.
You could tell they were tired though, after a busy week. Most of the writers went off to their hotels after the Irish dancing set laid on by Bord Fáilte was finished, while the rest of us stayed on to tidy up, and maybe dream of getting onto the cover of Vogue.
During the summer we were lucky to be
visited by a PhD student from Queens University, Lorraine McKendrick.
Lorraine was studying bumble bees, and wanted to see what species we
might have on our farm later in summer, when the apples were not in
In walking the farm with her I came to understand, more than ever before, how important it is to leave areas of flowering plants (what some might call weeds), so that the bees have an alternative source of food. Everywhere we came across flowering plants, bees abounded, and Lorraine and her boyfriend captured them with their nets and took samples for DNA analysis.
Goodness knows, if any of those bees had been involved in criminality, Lorraine would have found out, as she was a regular CSI, with all the tests she conducted.
Anyhow, early in the autumn, when I had almost forgotten about the bees, Lorraine sent me a lovely card with the proper scientific names of the five species of bumble bee she had found on our farm. There was the white-tailed bumble bee, the buff tailed bumble bee, the brown-banded carder bee, the garden bumble bee, and one without a common name, the scientific name of which I can’t quite pronounce.
I now know for sure that, if I want plenty of bumble bees to be there to pollinate my apple trees, that I must do my utmost to ensure that our orchard and nearby hedges have plenty of flowering plants to feed my bees while the apples themselves are not in flower.
We were lucky enough to be featured in
another TV program which screened on TV3 over the summer. It was a
series on different types of farming, and we were in the episode on
crops. Having seen the entire set of episodes, I must say that I think
they were both educational and entertaining. The producer, Stephen
Locke, has a great interest in both modern and traditional farming, and
wanted to bring out both the similarities and differences between
different methods. Along with the beautiful camerawork, it made the
series great to watch. Hopefully it will appear in a repeat soon. You
can see more about it at www.ayearontheland.com, and we have some
edited highlights of our own part which can be accessed from our
Ireland has three times as much retail
area as it should. This was reported a few months ago in the Sunday
Business Post, and was recently also highlighted as a problem by John
Concannon, head of JFC plastics; and leading businessman from Tuam.
(John featured in an RTE program called The Secret Millionaire, and if
you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it). One would therefore
wonder about the logic of bringing another supermarket-type retailer
into Cahir, especially since the retail businesses of Cahir which would
currently be selling the same types of produce are under pressure
Yet, it appears as though Tesco may be about to open an outlet in Cahir. It seems that the property bubble has not quite burst in our local town.
Now, lest anyone think otherwise, I have no problem with Tesco per se, or any other supermarket. People are entitled to spend their hard-earned money wherever they like. Also, a Tesco (or whatever) opening in Cahir would not affect my business, so why should it bother me?
Well, my main problem is the adverse effect it would have on jobs. UK studies have shown that where a Tesco-type retailer comes into a town, that for every job it creates, three are lost in nearby shops. So rather than creating jobs, these types of shops cause a loss of jobs. This probably explains why in the UK, there are more than 1000 community groups fighting to keep these types of supermarkets out of their towns. Makes you think, they might know a few things that we don’t.
So, combine the fact that Ireland already has far too much retail, and the fact that large supermarkets cost jobs, and you have one very good reason why Cahir would be better off without such a development.
As one person said to me, with all those automated check-outs in Tesco, soon they won’t need to employ anyone at all. Not that some of our local politicians seem to have noticed. I’m sure we’ll see them there at the ribbon-cutting, whenever the day comes around. I might be there too, but if I am, I’ll be carrying a placard!
On my way into the Farmers’ Market in
Cahir this morning, I heard an advert on the radio for one of our
larger supermarkets. They had a special offer on 5kg bags of Rooster
potatoes, down from six euros a bag to four. When I got to the market I
asked Pat O’Brien what he was selling his Roosters for. “3 euros for a
5kg bag as usual” came the reply. Need I say more?
During the summer we sent away our
first juice export to the USA. A pallet of juice made its way slowly by
sea to the west coast; Portland in Oregon to be precise. The wholesaler
over there is selling directly to the public via his website,
www.exeterimports.com, as well as selling through other channels. If
you know of anyone in the US who would like our juice, you can now send
them a case by ordering online at that website, or indeed encourage
them to enjoy a taste of the best of Irish juice by ordering direct
Also, in the past week we have sent juice to Germany, for use in Christmas hampers over there. Nothing could give me more satisfaction than seeing some money coming from Germany, rather than hearing on the news about it all heading from here, over to there.
Now this is not the time of year for it, but given that, as part of a school project, my son Daniel and his friend Mike have been making some ice-cream, I have to mention it. It is all happening in the small ice-cream factory of Michael Cantwell, of Boulabawn ice-cream near Roscrea. The boys started with using Michael’s ingredients along with our fruit to make some flavours, but also made some working from the Boulabawn recipe book. It has gone very well for Mike and Dan. The main question has been to decide whether to call their ice-cream Dan & Mike’s or Mike & Dan’s. At the moment they have half the lids with each brand name.
This time we have a word-rhyme for kids
to complete. All the answers rhyme with Bumble.
To complain: grumble
Type of dessert:
To mix up:
Sound of thunder:
Opposite of proud:
When it is ready send it to:
The Apple Farm,
1st: €20.00 Easons voucher
2nd €10.00 Apple Farm voucher
Closing date: January 13th, 2012