A Time for Change

By John McHugh (Clondarrig Farm, Co. Laois)

There is a strong sense these days that we are living in exciting times, a time where great change is required of us so that humanity can prosper into the distant future.

Change is often an uncomfortable process, one where we have to let go of what we know and what feels safe, to make room for something new and unknown. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” is a familiar saying in Ireland and this fear of change leads to resistance. “The only constant in life is change” is also a familiar saying, one that suggests resistance is futile, that we should embrace change and the flow of life, using our energies more wisely guiding our course to avoid the many obstacles that exist.


Agriculture seems to be at the epicentre of this change; beef crisis, dairy calf crisis, weather crisis, fodder crisis etc.

It seems like we have been existing in a constant state of crisis for the last number of years, like a boat without an oar, bundling down an increasingly rough river, living in hope that calm waters lie ahead, but in fear that one or two more collisions will sink our boat.

The increasing talk of environmental degradation on practically all fronts and the seemingly impossible levels of change required to counter this seems to present an almost unavoidable obstacle that threatens to strike the fatal blow to our leaky boat.

But do we have choices other than denial or despair?

Maybe we can pick up the oars we left down so long ago, the oars we had forgotten but still have, taking back control of our boats and finding that the current rapids of change can actually be exhilarating!

The irony of how agriculture has been hailed as a major Irish success story with large increases in value and volumes of exports since the 2007 is beginning to raise uncomfortable questions for many farmers who don’t seem to be sharing in this success. A greater irony exists in that those who proclaim this success story are charting our course for the years ahead with plans for much greater growth powered by “sustainable intensification”, and balanced by afforestation of marginal land. Sustainable intensification will involve the adoption of more technology combined with increases in efficiency. This equates to more investment, more costs and greater output and scale and in turn this equates to fewer farmers. This is the treadmill of capitalism! To maintain this growth there must be sacrifice!


There can be no denying that humanity has witnessed extraordinary growth since the birth of capitalism in the sixteenth century.

To facilitate this growth required the creation of the commodity.

A commodity is essentially something that can be traded and used to generate profit. The four primary resources of Land, Labour, Capital and Enterprise were all now commodities used to fuel this new system.

“The Commons” or lands which no one owned were now private property and the “great enclosure” of land into fields was the choice method in the UK and Ireland to define and enforce this new idea of land ownership. The function of this land was now to generate profit.

People became labour units whose function was also to generate profit.

The function of money changed.

Money had, up to this been used as a means to simplify the trading of items. Now its function too was profit, and it was used to trade the other commodities required to make that profit.

Finally enterprise or human creativity and inventiveness was also tasked with making profit. Creativity and inventiveness that were not used for the purpose of profit would attract little of the other primary resources. Likewise with land, labour and capital.

The purpose of human life in this system is to generate profit and our progress is defined as growth.

Competition was used as the vehicle to drive this growth, The limited resources or commodities now meant there was not enough for everyone who were all trying to “grow” and hence competition proved a very powerful vehicle to ensure that commodities were predominantly used for their primary function of making profit.

Driving this new powerful vehicle saw the encouragement of human ambition. Ambition is often defined as greed, but perhaps being greedy within this context is simply being an ambitious and effective capitalist.

However, greed does not come easy to most people, leading them to frequently make choices that are not to their benefit within this system. This is where the corporate structure comes in.

Corporations are entities set up for the purpose of generating profit and are the perfect citizens of this new system, hence corporations are given legal personhood and favourable status within this system (reduced tax, limited liability etc).

The stage was now set for the remarkable “growth” that this system achieved over the last few hundred years. However in capitalism everything has a cost, and powering this growth required a lot of fuel.

This in turn led to the massive exploitation of primary resources.

Land was grabbed, forests were felled, rivers polluted. Labour was exploited through increasingly long working ours; even the parents of newborns are now required to quickly re-enter the labour market. Our capital or money was exploited too.

This continuous growth model needed a continuously expanding money system to facilitate it, which resulted in us all becoming increasingly held in bondage to this system, to the point that now most nation states are held in bondage and are increasingly indebted to this model.

The vast proportion of our creativity is now also being targeted with growth in profits and staying ahead of the competition. This results in our most creative minds often being tasked at creating weapons or agricultural implements that increase efficiency.

Increased efficiency you might say, is a positive thing, however efficiency within this new system took on a very different meaning. It was now about using resources effectively to maximize profit rather than completing tasks with the minimum amount of energy. Efficiency was now merely a method of becoming more competitive to increase the speed of growth and therefore the accumulation of profit.


This profit focused system skewed the vast majority of our technological developments, and this process compounded over time. Is it time to question the unquestionable, the system that gave us all of this success we perceive as “growth?”

It is said that exponential growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell! Is capitalism a cancer that is killing humanity? Do the problems we seem to be facing seem unavoidable and insurmountable because we are stuck in a box limiting our way of thinking, narrowing our focus so much that we can’t see all the solutions in the periphery?

The farmer who wants to jump off this treadmill and escape the increasing squeeze between costs and price received and the increasing requirement to go into debt for misguided technology in order to achieve distorted efficiency seems alone. They may feel left to carve an unknown path counter to everything they have known, everything their parents, grandparents and many more generations have known.

We can try to cut our costs, adopting organic and regenerative practices but the same pressures exist to produce more. We can try to achieve premium prices for our premium products and create links with affluent customers becoming increasingly health conscious and environmentally aware. But does this too ring hollow, in that we are creating a system whereby only the wealthy can afford healthy environmentally friendly food?


Those who seek change are no longer alone, being joined by increasing numbers, all intuitively seeking a pathway to a more equitable and positively orientated world, where future generations can still have a future.

By trading greed for compassion, competition for co-operation and exploitation for regeneration we can regain our future. We can regenerate our soils, our landscapes and diversity, we can regain our freedom from the slavery of commodified labour, we can re-task human ingenuity for the purpose of regeneration and human empowerment and we can re-purpose our money to facilitate the flow of energy towards these purposes.

This change will not come from the lobbying of politicians, nor through protests or revolution. This is human evolution and requires people looking for the solutions within themselves, solutions that will open the doors to the formation of communities that will hold power in ways unrecognized before, the power to chart our own course and create the world we want to live in.

The time for change is now. Pick up your oar.

Wide Awake Films

Presented by Clondarrig Farm and The Balcony Film Club, Mountmellick

We are really happy to announce that in early 2020 Clondarrig Farm will partner with The Balcony Cinema, Mountmellick to host a series of inspirational films with the theme of restoration, resilience and ecological stewardship in the face of climate change and ecological crisis. .

Our intention is that hosting these films will help inspire hope and purpose in those of us who are worried about what the future holds and want to make a difference. We hope to create a space for local community to connect and talk about the many ways of creating an alternative future together, for ourselves and for the places in nature we have guardianship of .

The screenings will be followed by an informal cuppa, a cake (or two!) and a chat with key local and national players in creating resilient, regenerative, strong and harmonious communities in the years to come.

Check out the trailer of this great film, “Living the Change” for an idea of what we are planning …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esfgaThoZ1s

So stay tuned for more news on “Wide Awake Films” coming soon!

For further enquiries, email ; connect@clondarrig.com or clondarrigfarm@gmail.com

Environment, Organic food & Health Convention

Hosted by ; The Organic Institute CLG

Some of the community members at Clondarrig Farm are looking forward to attending the Environment, Organic food & Health Convention (<—-tickets available at that link) coming up at The Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise on November 19th 2019.

The following is a great piece from the institute on the details of the event and the imperative need for community education;

The Organic Institute CLG is an Irish registered charity dedicated to the promotion of sustainable organic nutrition and the understanding of its fundamental role in human health and ecology.

This year’s convention draws together a number of highly regarded speakers, both national and international, each expert in their individual field. The one day event will cover a wide range of compelling topics including:

> The role of food & nutraceuticals in cancer prevention and treatment

> Urgent requirements around creating a sustainable ecological approach to food production

> Primacy of healthy soil & best practice farming in producing healthy crops and healthy populations

> How and why pharmaceutical based medicine is slowly yielding ground to the functional medicine revolution and the nutritional therapy alternative

> Low carb & Keto diets and human health: if not for all, who might be best to consider these and why?

> Mindful medicine: the science behind the mind-body connection

> A review of where we stand in terms of nutritional & ecological welfare, now and next


Prof. Dana Flavin M.D. is a world renowned scientist, researcher and medical doctor. She serves as honorary Professor at De Montfort University where she lectures in the pharmacology of food nutrients and off-label drugs in cancer care. She has been Advisor to the Director of the Bureau of Toxicology in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (F.D.A.). Dr Flavin is a world leading authority on non-drug nutrient based adjunctive therapies in cancer medicine. Dana’s topic is Supplemental Therapy in Cancer, which enhances standard therapies, decreases side effects, increases the immune system, shortens recovery time and prolongs survival.

Dr. Robert Verkerk PhD is an internationally acclaimed, multi-disciplinary sustainability scientist with a 30-year background in environmental, agricultural, food, nutritional and health sciences. He has a MSc and doctorate from Imperial College London, where he also worked as a postdoctoral research fellow, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. Rob is the founder, executive and scientific director of the Alliance for Natural Health International, a leading non-profit, research and education organisation seeking to optimise human potential through the use of natural and sustainable approaches to healthcare.

Conor Saunders is one of Ireland’s best known nutritional therapists running busy practices in both Greystones and Galway. His work marries an eclectic interest in all varieties of natural healing together with a solid grounding in science. He specialises in complex, chronic health issues from autism through chronic fatigue and Lyme disease to cancer. Conor also founded and runs a number of healthfood businesses. His talk is “Going Back to Our Roots, How and why nutritional therapy, drawing on the best of medical science and traditional dietary wisdom is fast becoming the new medicine”

David Wilson is a soil scientist and Manager of the Royal Duchy Organic Farms at Highgrove. Prince Charles chose David to manage the process of converting the very substantial Highgrove estates to sustainable, organic agriculture. David will speak on mixed sustainable/organic farming and the links between soil, plant, animal and human health.

Patricia Daly is an experienced and Internationally recognised Nutritional Therapist (BAH Hon, dipNT, mBANT,rCHNC). Patricia has published books, including “The Ketogenic Kitchen” which she co-authored with Irish Chef Domini Kemp, which quickly became a bestseller around the world. Patricia will be speaking on Low Carb Real Food Lifestyles, who should consider them and why they should be personalised.

Dr. Anthony Sharkey is a medical doctor with wide experience and interest in all forms of healing. He has been active in Buddhist, meditation and mindfulness practices in Ireland for decades. He will present on the science behing the mind-body connection and energy medicine.

Gary Healy, Founder and President of The Organic Institute CLG. will be speaking about The Connection Between Environmental Destruction and Human Chronic Disease. He will speak about Industrial Farming Practices which use toxic chemicals like glyphosate,and many other adverse practices in the modern production of our foods

It is imperative that the causations of climate disaster, the degradation of our soils, the toxicity in our food, air, water, and the plastic and toxic pollutions of our oceans is addressed. Otherwise we are leaving a shocking legacy for both our children and our children’s children, and the real possibility that they will be the last line of defence for the survival of humanity and the planet.


Clondarrig Farm is delighted to be assisting N.O.T.S., the National Organic Training Skillnet in hosting renowned ecologist and author of “Silvopasture”, Steve Gabriel for a one day Agroforestry Training Workshop on November 4th in the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise with a follow up tour of Clondarrig Farm.

Steve is an ecologist, educator, and forest farmer who has lived most of his life in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His personal mission is to reconnect people of all ages with the natural world and to provide the tools for good management of forests and other landscapes.

Course Content / Topics:

  • The value of agroforestry
  • What are the benefits of trees in an agroforestry situation
  • How to design and plan an agroforestry approach

Species Selection:

  • Defining a Silvopasture
  • General Benefits and Limitations
  • Components of a Silvopasture: Livestock, Trees, Forages
  • Success Stories
  • Questions

Date: Monday November 4th (10.00am – 5.00pm)

Venue: Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise, Co Laois, and Clondarrig Farm (John McHugh), Portlaoise R32 XV97

Cost: €70 (tea / coffee and hot lunch included) for N.O.T.S .members.

Registration for this event and information on N.O.T.S. membership here —-> https://nots.ie/register/3371/

“Fundamentals of Soil” with Dr. Christine Jones (sold out)

At Clondarrig Farm we are delighted to be assisting N.O.T.S. – National Organic Training Skillnet in hosting Dr Christine Jones, who adds a unique, once-off 2-day course to her appearance at the upcoming  BioFarm 2019. The two-day workshop will cover the basics of soil function, including soil carbon dynamics and the links between carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, trace elements, soil structure, and water.

Dr. Christine Jones is an internationally renowned and highly respected groundcover and soils ecologist. She has a wealth of experience working with innovative landholders to implement regenerative land management techniques that enhance biodiversity, increase biological activity, sequester carbon, activate soil nutrient cycles, restore water balance, improve productivity and create new topsoil.

Christine has organised and participated in workshops, field days, seminars and conferences throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, Central America, and the USA and has a strong publication and presentation record.

Christine received a Community Fellowship Award from Land and Water Australia in 2001. The LWA Community Fellowship Program provides recognition to individuals with an outstanding track record in mobilising and inspiring the community to better manage their land, water, and vegetation.

Read more about Dr. Jones via her website https://www.amazingcarbon.com/

Autumn Equinox, Forage, Fire Cider and Permaculture Walk

A beautiful Autumnal afternoon learning about more of Nature’s wild food and medicine with hedgewitch Silja after a walk and forage on Clondarrig’s developing “Permaculture “Walk” .

Cob Oven Workshop & Lúnasa Fire with friends of Clondarrig

A wonderful day with the lovely Gerry from Cob on building our new cob oven. We finished our great day off with an impromptu sage stick making session with hedgewitch Silja followed by some storytelling, tunes, a warm fire and toasted marshmallows .

We are very grateful to Kicks media for this gorgeous video created for us which captures some really precious moments spanning three generations of Clondarrig friends. Click on the link to enjoy the video —–>https://youtu.be/HipJQ9cp6Ps