Here’s a question that just popped up in my inbox: Can a wonky potato, some markers and a packet of crisps change the course of Irish Agriculture? It was asked by a woman who will be familiar to many people interested in the future of Irish food, the inimitable Kaethe Burt-O’Dea.
The implicit question being posed by Kaethe was also, do you fancy a healthy and unique day out this coming weekend, where your physical work out is rewarded by a bag of spuds for the Christmas table AND a good story to tell while you’re eating them, one that involves you helping to save the future of Irish agriculture?
Kaethe is one of founders and drivers of SPUDS, which was launched in 2012 “as a proactive response to the decision to trial genetically-modified (GM) blight-resistant potatoes in Ireland”.
SPUDS believes in “the power of the individual to effect change” and that “the most important subjects of the future will be water quality, soil fertility and nutrition.” Their aim is “to prove that Ireland will generate higher levels of innovation and employment by concentrating our research energy on the development of a food system that promotes lean production, enhanced nutrition and environmental health.”
That all sounds quite serious but they’ve been approaching their mission with a great sense of fun and imagination, as these rather brilliant demonstrations of the potential appeal of the wonkiest of potatoes proves:
Having gotten people’s attention, SPUDS.ie went on to produce some award-winning ‘Crisps with a Conscience’, the sale of which aimed to bring people’s attention to the kinds of perfectly good potatoes which never reach their potential as a delicious crisp because somebody somewhere decides that us consumers won’t want to eat them. There is a second limited edition of these story-telling crisps in the planning, and that’s where you potentially come in.
On December 8th, potato farmer John Swaby-Miller will be digging, picking, washing and preparing an acre of naturally blight-resistant Sarpo Axona potatoes, which will be sold in 5kg bags for Christmas to raise funds this next round of SPUDS.ie. And he and Kaethe need volunteers to help.
The deal? Don some warm clothes and rain proofs and a pair of gardening gloves, and join them in Co. Wicklow for an invigorating day in the field with John and his piglets. Good company and a hardy potato lunch will be provided in a local pub. The designated meeting place is the parking lot of the Tap Pub, Kilbride, Co Wicklow, 45 minutes from Dublin on the N11: click here for the map.
The reward? “A warm feeling in your soul and your very own bag of the best SPUDS in Ireland for your Christmas Feast!”
If you’re interested, just drop Kaethe a line at research[AT]spuds.ie or give her a call on 087 2444185 by Wednesday December 4th so that they can put your name in the pot. And if you can’t make it, you could pop along to Dublin’s Block T POP UP Christmas Market in Smithfield where they will be selling their Christmas SPUDS from December 13th.