How does the steering group stay in touch with the members?
We send a regular RoundUp newsletter via Mailchimp – you can sign up to this even if you aren’t a member, using the “subscribe” button on top of the webpage. We keep a separate mailing list of members which Nathan, the farmer, uses for regular Farmer Updates and which we use for other member notifications. If you are a member and don’t use email or computer, do notify us and we can use post or leave a print-out in your weekly veg bag. We will also endeavour to update the website regularly, we have a facebook page and twitter too. Important notices about the Members Meetings will be printed out and a copy put in each veg bag. Communication is a two-way thing and we need to hear from you if you are not receiving our emails.
I can’t afford the share cost. What is possible for me?
If the fees are more than you can afford, please contact Liam O’Toole on 085-7117358. We hope to develop a bursary scheme in the future to assist members on a low income. It may also be possible to arrange some partial work-share memberships if you have skills that are of value to the farm or can give a set period of time per week to general farm tasks. We would need to discuss this in detail with you as these ideas are in their infancy.
Is the farm receiving EU subsidies or other grants?
No, the farm doesn’t receive EU subsidies. Any grants we receive are due to applications made by members.
What kind of experience do the farmers have?
Nathan did his degree in Botany and has spent the last four years setting up and running a 1/4 acre vegetable and fruit plot at Aranbeag farm, Hazelhatch. Séamus Bradley is on our farm sub-group, he grows for Dublin CSA on land in Kilwogan. In our first year, we got a lot of help from Neal who has been gardening since childhood, studied permaculture and has been working as a landscape gardener for the past few years. We are also receiving support and advice from other farmers such as Rose O’Sullivan of Spring Cottage Farm in Kinegad, who sells her produce from Celbridge main street on Friday mornings. She has many years’ experience as an organic farmer and has been most helpful. Bruce Darrell of Feasta and Cloughjordan has also offered some great advice on farm set-up and soil nutrition. He was involved in setting up the CSA at Cloughjordan and now runs the Research, Education and Development gardens from there. We are part of a CSA network and are members of the international agency URGENCI.
I’m interested in supporting the farm but don’t need to buy food from it. What options exist for me?
You can also become a social member, at a cost of €30 per household per year. You will be invited to all the farm events and will have an opportunity to participate in the running of the farm and become part of the farm community, you may also be able to buy excess produce from time to time when it comes available. You can donate money to the farm to help with set-up costs. You can also take part in volunteering in any way that suits you.
Can I try if for a while and then opt out?
If you find that the scheme is not suitable for you, then you are free not to renew your membership. However, the nature of community-supported farming means that members need to commit for a year. At any rate, it probably would be best to give it a full year, with all the different types of vegetables in each season, before deciding finally if you like it or not. Some CSAs allow prospective members to buy one week’s box before deciding whether to join or not. We are not in a position to do this now, but it may be possible in the future.
What happens when members are on Holidays?
Since the farm needs support throughout the year, payments need to continue even if you are on holiday. You can arrange for a friend to collect and use your vegetables when you are away. If nobody can collect them, please let the farmer know, so that the excess can be distributed among the other members.
How will I collect /receive my boxes of food?
You can collect produce direct from the farm at Mooretown (opposite Salesians College) on Saturdays, from midday on. Produce will be harvested throughout the day on Friday and Saturday morning and will be divided into boxes by noon on Saturday. You will be provided with the code for the lock on the caravan should the farmers not be around when you come to collect your box. Ideally you should collect your box on Saturday as salads etc will begin to wilt if not refrigerated. We encourage members to collect vegetables for each other in order to minimise travel. To make this easier to organise and to help build a community around the farm we encourage members to share their contact details. A number of members come from Maynooth and they have arranged a drop-off to the garage at one of the member’s houses, the others have a key and can collect their veg from there. Other members could also arrange to put a lock up box at a café or other public space and the farmers or volunteer members could drop off their boxes to this point. This would save fuel for pick-ups (but could reduce member-farm interaction) so is a decision best left to the membership as the community evolves.
Why might we need to break organic standards on phosphorus?
Basically our soil type is probably high in calcium which means phosphorus will have a tendency to get locked up in the soil and become unavailable to the plants. To overcome this we need to flood the soil with phosphorus in the first few years. There are two ways to add phosphorus, phosphate rock and synthetic phosphate fertilisers. Phosphate rock is approved by organic standards. However it is only 5% as effective as synthetic phosphate by weight meaning we have to transport 20 times the amount of material to the site to use phosphate rock. This is not only expensive it is also carbon intensive. The form of synthetic fertilizer we might use is called MAP (monoammonium phosphate) it is much less common then DAP (diammonium phosphate) in agriculture and is a lot less harsh on the soil biology. Once the phosphorus levels in the soil have been balanced we will stop using MAP and replace phosphate lost due to harvesting with compost, manure and if necessary a small amount of organically approved phosphate rock which can be incorporated into compost production, greatly increasing it’s uptake by plants.
How can I get involved in working on the farm?
We need volunteers to help with the farm work. Whilst some jobs will need to be done under the direction of the farmers, for many tasks individuals or groups will be free to act of their own accord. The work might involve a big job over a weekend, such as erecting a polytunnel or fencing, or it might be something regular like weeding or keeping down the grass around the perimeter or feeding chickens on the farmers’ time off. There’s a plethora of things to accomplish on this project from essential jobs and infrastructure to fun projects. Our ethos for such projects is one of collaborative autonomy. Feel free to contact us if you want to take on a task whether it’s one we’ve suggested or an idea of your own.
Do members have to work on the farm?
No. Members are required to do nothing more than pay their fee and collect their produce. That said, there will be opportunities for members to work on the farm if they wish.
Is getting a box of seasonal food every week going to suit me?
Receiving a box of local food, in season, every week, is different from shopping in a supermarket or even at an organic market. You don’t choose the food but take whatever is available that week. So you need to be able to plan your meals around the produce you get. There are lots of recipes on the internet and on our social media. Preparing the vegetables is also more time-consuming than when you buy them ready-washed. However, with a little forward planning, it is possible to simplify the food preparation and to eat very well at the same time. The quality of the food will be very good. Its price compares very well with supermarket prices. And you will know that its carbon footprint is lower than food transported many miles.
What are the advantages of local, organically grown food?
Local food is picked very close to the time you consume it. It has less handling and transport than food that comes from further away. This means it is fresher, more flavoursome and healthier when you eat it. It also has a lower carbon footprint. Local food also gives you a connection to the growers, the land and the other members of the farm community.
Will the food be organic?
The food will be organically grown but will not have official organic certification. We will abide by virtually all the rules applied to certified farms including no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or artificial fertilizers. Some certification rules run contrary to sustainability principles; if we need to break these rules for such a reason it will be done in consultation with the members. Probably the only rule we might need to break relates to phosphorus, see question on “Why might we need to break organic standards on phosphorus?” for more information.
What’s the vision going into the future?
Our vision is to have within five years a member-managed farm on about 10 acres, providing a secure source of local food, including eggs and some meat,for 50-60 members and employment for two farmers, with some extra seasonable employment. We also hope to build a community of interest among the farm members. We will hold farm open-days and other events in order to develop a sense of belonging and participation. In the first year, there will be just two categories of produce: vegetables and eggs. Your membership covers the vegetables and if you wish, you can buy eggs and pork as an extra, over and above your vegetable share. In later years, we hope to develop different kinds of produce, such as fruit and nuts, chicken and honey. These will all be separate shares, which will cost extra and which people can choose to opt in to if they wish. Within five years we’d also hope to have meat (pork, lamb, rabbit, whatever works), fish and dairy shares. What we produce will depend a lot on what the members decide and what is practical at the time. Derrybeg farm has the potential to bring social and economic benefits to the Celbridge / Maynooth / Leixlip / Lucan area. The farm will also provide interested members with the possibility of participating in some farm work. This work could be tasks assigned by the farmers, or it could entail taking on projects of their own such as starting a pulse and grain share, where members buy in pulses and grains from organic sustainable suppliers in bulk and share them out between members, significantly reducing their cost. We have already made links with an olive oil farmer who used to live in Mullingar and harvests a farm in Greece. For more information on this and other CSA possibilites see Stroud CSA. In the long run we want to see the farm and its associated producers capable of providing 100% of its members’ food. This will mean producing vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, pulses, meat and dairy. There is no way of knowing how long this will take and will be dependent on others getting involved with the project, whether on the farm, or selling produce via the farm to its members.
In what way do the members manage the farm?
Derrybeg farm is a not-for-profit enterprise run on cooperative principles, which are:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member management
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training, and information
- Co-operation with other co-operatives
- Concern for community.
The farm is also a commons; in other words, it is a resource that no one person or group owns, but which is managed by a steering group for the benefit of all its members. The steering group takes care of finances and legal matters. The farmers make the decisions about the day-to-day farming tasks. The steering group also consults members about other matters relating to the farm. For example, members will help decide how money remaining from membership fees at the end of each accounting period should be used: re-invested in the farm, possibly a bonus for the farmers, to purchase special ‘luxury’ food as a dividend for members, or to fund activites for members and donors, or for other purposes. We use a consensus process to make decisions in the steering group and among members. Initially the farm steering group will be made up of the current planning group. From an early stage, also, other members will be encouraged to participate in the steering group. The planning group will plan for its succession so that its membership will change over time, with some experienced people continuing to serve on it, and some new members joining it. In the event of the farm dissolving, once any debts are paid, all of its assets will be donated to another similar enterprise. The current planning group is preparing a memorandum of association to reflect these principles. Overall responsibility for the running of the farm will be in the hands of the farmers but they will work closely with the steering group to ensure the farm is running in whatever way the members want. Meetings will be held twice a year – as well as regular social events – with all the membership to discuss progress and big decisions which need taking. In this way the long term progress of the farm can be decided upon by the whole membership. Finally all members will be free to visit the farm and talk with the farmers if they want to know more about how the farm is being run. All subscriptions will be used to pay inputs and wages. Any money left over will belong to the whole group and can be used to expand the farm or buy in excess or novel produce for the members. Decisions on what to do with any profit will be made at a meeting of all the membership. We are currently in the process of documenting these details in Our Constitution.
Do I have to subscribe for everything on the farm?
You can opt to subscribe as a social member or a food member. Food members receive a weekly share of the produce; we are aiming to separate shares into categories, and you will be able to subscribe to one, a few or all of the categories.
Do I need to pay membership as a lump sum?
We need as many people as possible to pay their membership as a lump sum. That said, this is often not feasible for people so we are also able to take payment as monthly instalments. Contact Liam O’Toole on 085-7117358 if you would like to pay your membership in this way.
When and how do I pay the membership fee?
The due date for signing up for each season is March. Subscriptions for the year must be received before then. The easiest method of payment is by direct bank transfer into our credit union account but we can also accept cash and check, and we have a paypal account. Some members pay their subscription by monthly instalments. Late joiners will be considered so be sure to talk to the treasurer, Liam O’Toole on 085 7117358 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much is a years subscription and what quantity of produce does it contain?
Please see the membership page