Peadar McGee, M&S Mushroom grower - Winner of the 2014 M&S Farming for the Future Produce Award for Ireland.
As a business, here at Cornacrieve Mushrooms we have always been keen to try new things. We produce cup mushrooms for M&S and are proud to have been a key supplier for many years. We grow many of the large mushrooms that are used in the ‘dine in’ deals so we spend a lot of time making sure our mushrooms are the perfect size for filling. That’s actually more of a task than you might first think, as mushrooms actually carry on growing for a bit once they are picked, not much, but enough to make our lives a little bit harder! Luckily we’ve found that by cooling the mushrooms down really quickly after picking we can minimise ‘post-harvest growing’ and have invested in special cooling equipment to help us sort that headache out.
Mushrooms are the single biggest crop in Irish horticulture so being recognised for doing it well by M&S in the Farming for the Future awards this year was a real accolade. The awards programme looks at the overall sustainability of a farm, taking into account everything from environmental conservation to ethics and efficiency.
Looking back at the expansion of the family farm, we’ve spent time trying to grow a well-rounded business that is focussed on more than just the bottom line. Doing things because they are the ‘right thing to do’, I feel, is a really important part of being a responsible grower.
It’s important to us that our employees are happy and thanks to the great game of football, our overseas workers have integrated well into the local community.
Environmentally, mushroom growing is largely reliant on water and heat and here we are experimenting with water recycling systems and have recently invested in a huge biomass boiler to heat the tunnels.
We also work with local schools, teaching them about mushroom growing which is great fun and important for the future of the industry. Obviously keeping an eye on costs is a critical to our overall success, so we are pleased that many of our sustainable activities do translate into efficiencies, creating a win-win situation.
Sustainable farming means different things to different people. In our business it means considering our environmental impact at every turn, sharing best practice with other growers and most importantly making sure we continue to produce a quality product that people will want to eat. I hope that our approach will carry on to work for us for many years yet.
Our M&S Farming for the Future programme sees us working closely with farmers, growers and fishermen in our supply base to ensure that we can secure the long term supply of high quality and innovative raw materials from the most sustainable sources. As part of this activity we run our Farming for the Future awards each year, which celebrate suppliers who demonstrate leading standards of sustainable practice in their sector. These awards, which are now in their sixth year, run in each region of the UK as well as overseas.