Carrowgarry Farm in Co. Sligo is one of our fantastic host farms for 2024. Last year was their first year as an OGI Work Placement Programme Host Farm. We caught up with Paola to find out how it went and what they hope for from this year’s programme.
Tell us a bit about the background to Carrowgarry Farm and your ethos. How did you end up in organic horticulture?
We are Paola and Andrew and we grow certified organic vegetables at Carrowgarry Farm in Beltra, Co. Sligo, right beside the Atlantic Ocean. Carrowgarry farm has been in Andrew’s family for generations, and we’re honoured to work and live here. Vegetables are grown in two large polytunnels and an outdoor area of a third of an acre, located in a beautiful walled garden surrounded by apple trees.
We strongly believe in locally grown, nutrient-dense, seasonal food. It tastes better, is more nutritious, fresh and environmentally friendly. One of the main lessons learnt from past years is the importance of building a healthy soil and this has become our main priority. Healthy soil will both increase the quality and the capacity of crops to be resilient to climate stress, pests and disease.
Seasonality is also key to our ethos, and we would like to see more and more people eating what is available in each season. You won’t taste better tomatoes than ours in the summer!
What is the greatest joy of working on an organic farm?
Being outside surrounded by beautiful nature, it sort of nurtures and lifts the spirit. It is also a very diverse job so you never get bored.
What are the main challenges you face?
Knowing what customers will buy… it seems that they are always looking for something else… or more!
Last year was your first year as a host farm. How did you find it?
It was a very good experience to have someone working full time for the season. It made things possible.
Why did you decide to become a host farm?
We decided to become a host farm in order to attract potential candidates to come and work with us.
What did your intern bring to farm life?
Lots of enthusiasm and motivation.
How did your intern benefit from being on your farm?
As we are a small-scale farm the intern had the possibility to learn every aspect of the job from planting seeds to preparing veggies for customers and everything in between! We also give lots of responsibility, so it is a great place to grow into the job.
What’s the best thing about having a good intern on farm?
It is the great help and support having a full-time member. of staff, more things get done at the right time.
Do you think the Work Placement Programme workshops and farm walks benefited the intern? And the farm?
Yes, the intern learned what other farms are doing and applied some learning into their work at the farm.
What kind of candidate are you looking for this year?
We are looking for an extra motivated and enthusiast vegetable grower who enjoys working outdoor and in the polytunnels in a fast-paced environment. The growing season (April to October) is an intense part of the year, and we are looking for someone who’s willing to be fully committed and not afraid of long/unusual working hours and weather conditions.
We are looking to train someone who’s interested in potentially having a full-time position at the farm if it all works well.
Is there anything that would make the programme easier for you?