Roscommon farmer earmarks land with Ukrainians in mind

Two acres being provided to grow vegetables ‘and bring people here to an allotment-type situation’

Tommy Earley's farm at Mount Allen, Co Roscommon, has always been a welcoming place for visitors. But this year he is earmarking two of his 100 acres for vegetables with recent arrivals from Ukraine in mind.

The organic beef farmer says the Russian invasion made him think not just about the threat to food supplies but also the plight of families recently forced to flee from their own country.

A member of Leitrim Organic Farmers’ Co-Op, Earley intends to grow two acres of potatoes, carrots, cabbages and other vegetables to sell locally. He also wants Ukrainian people to come and grow produce for their own use.

“The plan is to bring people here to an allotment-type situation,” says Earley.


He expects to be joined by some of the 200 members of the co-op when he gets the community garden off the ground.

Having in the past grown enough potatoes and other vegetables for his family, Earley believes the war highlights the need to have more produce that is grown, sold and consumed locally.

“We grew up hearing about wars but it wasn’t very real to us,” says Earley, who is also working to protect habitats on his land by “re-wetting” 25 acres of raised bog.

The farmer says the uncertainty caused by the war underlines the need for people to think about where their food comes from.

“We do not know what way it is going to go but, whatever way it goes, we will have to be able to feed ourselves and take care of ourselves and I think our strength will be in working collectively,” he adds. “The ground is there. It can grow crops. It is a matter of getting organised and getting the crops out.”

While some farmers are wary of the idea of diversifying from their specialist areas, Earley looks forward to the challenge of growing crops such as potatoes, even though it might be labour intensive.

“I have an interest in vintage machinery and I have a couple of small tractors that can do a lot of that work,” he says.

Farm work

The fleet at his farm near the Arigna mountain includes five vintage Massey Ferguson tractors and attachments which he uses for farm work such as a potato planter.

“It’s a box on the back of the tractor and with a bell attached and you put the seed potato into it and every time the bell rings the fellow on the back of the tractor drops the seed down a pipe into the ground,” he explains.

Earley, who remembers when his late father James used to plough on farms throughout the Arigna valley with a horse, said the vintage tractors are much lighter on diesel than the powerful machines seen on many modern farms, an important consideration at the moment with fuel prices so high.

“And the big powerful yokes you see nowadays can still carry only one bale at a time,” he adds.

Earley says he hopes Ukrainian people who move into the area can enjoy some peace of mind on his land.

“God help them, it’s hard to take in what we are watching on television,” he says. “Apart from everything else it would be good for them to get out of the house and have something to do. Let them grow a lock of flowers if they want or whatever they want to grow.”

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland