Saturday 24 March 2018

The faces of the Sligo food trail

For 35 years Ian Green has been visiting the northwest on an increasingly frequent basis.

Two decades ago he nearly made the move for good.

Three years ago he took the plunge and relocated full-time to Tullaghan, just across the border, overlooking Leitrim's diminutive coastline.

Now, with a career as a market gardener and an honorary position as Chairman of Cliffoney Country Market, Ian is well settled in his new life.

Prior to this, north London was home to Ian. He was born there and lived in Islington and other areas with significant Irish populations.

Although a city boy, he had an early introduction to growing vegetables and fruit through London's thriving allotment system.

His grandparents on both sides had nearby allotments and a youngster he learned about the joys of growing your own. Their techniques favoured a use of chemicals that he would spurn today, as he comments wryly.

To be a chef was his childhood ambition, but instead Ian began working in youth and community development; areas which are still close to his heart.

After his son was born he retrained as a secondary school teacher and wound up teaching practical horticulture and animal care to people with special needs. In the heart of London, he found himself tending goats, chickens, goats and even reptiles.

Ian is passionate about the politics of food and believes it is essential that everyone understands where their food comes from, and what it does for the body.

He welcomes visitors to McGowan Greens where he grows vegetables according to organic principles both in polytunnels and outside.

Variety is the spice of life to Ian who grows a vast range of familiar and unfamiliar vegetables from salad leaves and spinach to cape gooseberries and the wonderfully named fat baby. This chubby infant hails from South America and resembles a spiky mini cucumber.

Ian is committed to preserving traditional varieties, and belongs to a seed savers club where he can acquire heritage seeds which, due to EU regulations, are no longer available on the open market.

He still loves to cook and even has aspirations to bake for the Country Market where he sells his McGowan's Greens produce. Cliffoney Country Market runs on the first and third Sundays of each month from 11am to 1pm in the Village Hall.

Every Country Market has its own character and Cliffoney's has music at its heart. Live traditional music is a highlight of every market day, to the delight and entertainment of visitors and stallholders alike.

Ian loves the direct contact with his customers and enjoys talking to them about their own gardens and encouraging them to grow as well.

This ties in with his enthusiasm for people to have control of their own food.

It may have taken 30 years for Ian Green to move lock, stock and barrel to the northwest but he has clearly settled seamlessly into his local community. #sligofoodtrail

Sligo Champion