Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

'There are about 50 roles on the farm and we do 10 each'

Matt Smith at work on Moy Hill Organic Farm near Lahinch, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward
Matt Smith at work on Moy Hill Organic Farm near Lahinch, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward

Gabrille Monaghan

Matt Smith, a Cornish surfer, is busy building a bathhouse in the low winter sun on the Moy farm.

The structure will contain showers to go with a new camping zone that will host wwoofers, the nickname for volunteers who get free bed and board in exchange for their labour through the World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) movement.

Like Fergal Smith, his friend and former housemate, the 31-year-old (inset) was increasingly becoming conscious of the flying miles he was notching up as he travelled the world to surf, and had set about reducing his carbon footprint by working on sailing boats. But his interest in communal vegetable growing was piqued during a stint at Moy Hill Community Garden on one of his visits to Co Clare.

"I first came (to Clare) 10 or 11 years ago and slowly started to surf here. Between the first and fifth year, I'd just come for three or four months in winter and go off and work abroad in the summers, because there wasn't really a place here where I wanted to work. Until the garden came along.

"I'd always cared about the environment but I just didn't know how to help. That's why I was working on sailing boats - I could travel without flying."

While delivering a yacht from San Francisco to Saint Thomas in the Caribbean, via the Panama Canal, and considering buying a boat of his own, he realised he wanted to call Clare his home.

"It was just most incredible journey, but I felt I had really enjoyed what I had been doing on the community garden," he says. "I felt like this was really worth putting my energy into and like it was the right thing to do."

While it has been somewhat of a steep learning curve for the fledgling grower, he has been picking up skills from Fergal.

Also Read

"You start off really slowly and small, like planting a few trees in the community garden," he says. "There are about 50 roles on the farm and we do about 10 each. I would have done more of the community events and manual labour and tree-planting."

The Moy farm's CSA model has had a positive reception from traditional farmers in the area, he says. "All the old guys get it because that's exactly what they did. They just didn't have a name for it. People would help each other on the farm and people bought local produce because there was no other option. It's not a new concept."

Indo Farming