THE HUNGRY GAP
WORDS BY KENNETH KEAVEY
I love this time of the year; the days are lengthening, there is warmth in the air and the fields are filling with crops. It is a strange one then, that the months from April to June can be months of local food scarcity. There is even a name to describe this time, it is called the ‘Hungry Gap’.
If you have never come across this term before, don’t worry, you are not alone. Historically it is the bridging period between the finish of the old season crops and the start of the new and most of us will be blissfully unaware of it, thanks to the always full shelves in the supermarket aisles. Our beautiful country has so much to offer, and we have a long history of producing our own food, especially vegetables. It seems that maybe, just maybe, we are missing something by having an always on, full access to whatever food we want. I, being the impatient individual that I am, can sometimes expect that we should have more local food at this time of the year, especially when the sun shines and our fields are full of maturing crops. But nature and farming cannot be rushed, they do not work like that.
For me, this idea is coupled to a question people often ask: “why do you produce your own food? Why do you grow it when it is so much cheaper to import it?” It is very easy to answer this, and the reasons are twofold: I love what I do, it is in my blood (we are third generation farmers) and I would not do anything else. Secondly, it is simply the right thing to do. Having food grown locally makes sense, it cuts down on carbon emissions, it is fresher, it tastes better, it provides local employment, it improves biodiversity, and we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it.
Can you imagine if we were to stop eating tomatoes when the season finishes in October and were not to start again until the Irish season began the following July? Yes, we would certainly miss them but imagine the anticipation and delight that we would have around that first red tomato. We still have that connection here in Ireland with two crops: strawberries and new potatoes, both of which are eagerly anticipated. This tradition has been kept alive and relished and we all know what a delight that first bite into a new potato feels like, or the taste of those first new season Wexford Strawberries. The taste, the abundance of flavour and the freshness are incomparable to anything we get in a supermarket.
Today, as I write this after a day in the fields, I feel lucky to be a farmer. Days do not come much better than this. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and we are on schedule with our planting. In the West of Ireland days like today are to be relished and enjoyed and it won’t be long before we are once again immersed in a season of plenty.
Kenneth Keavey and his wife Jenny started Green Earth Organics box delivery scheme in 2006. Farming on 40 acres of organically certified land with another 10 acres split between a wildlife biodiversity area, native woodland forestry (3000 trees) and red clover/grassland, Kenneth is the 3rd generation of his family to farm these lands. greenearthorganics.ie