It’s been four years since married couple Aimi Pinder and Lucy Smith landed their dream home on eight acres in the shape of a ‘crooked boot’ in Ballydehob. Since then they have created a thriving plant nursery business, supplying homegrown garden plants to local farmers’ markets and more recently Neighbourfood.ie.
The duo focus on plants that are both human- and nature-friendly; beautiful pollinator attractors, herbs and vegetables, all of which are produced chemical-free, peat-free and supplied in biodegradable pots. As Lucy explains “We always wanted to create as sustainable business as we could at Crooked Boot. We are acutely aware of the gigantic threats that the natural environment faces in these times and we wanted to put our energy into being part of the solution rather than the problem. We are really proud that we are offering local gardeners an alternative to plastic, peat-based compost and treatment with potentially harmful chemicals.”
But the couple isn’t just stopping at that. The nursery business is just part of a wider project to create a permaculture-style smallholding at Crooked Boot Farm producing food for themselves and the wider community. “Whilst the nursery has been a huge focus of ours thus far,” says Aimi, “we are slowly landscaping and improving the land for future food production projects.”
Their best land is down a very steep slope where they have sculpted the hillside into terraces to support a market garden. The terraces are dug on contour, hugging the natural curve of the landscape. This allows for water and nutrients to permeate down the slope slowly rather than simply washing away. The banks in-between the terraces are allowed to go back to the native pasture, providing habitat and forage for ground dwelling bees, as well as slug eating frogs.
“It is not in our interest as gardeners to only take from nature and not give back in return,” Aimi explains. “We want to create a smallholding that is designed to provide for the ecosystem around us, at the same time as providing for our own human needs.”
For this reason Aimi and Lucy have started designating areas of their land to natural regeneration and native tree planting. “So far we’ve planted about 1000 trees on the land,” Lucy explains. “We have hedgerows and small patches of woodland that will provide fantastic habitat for so many species. We also hope to dig a huge nature pond at the top of our land and continue our tree planting efforts into the future to include many varieties of edible tree crops.”
When asked about the workload created by all these projects, Aimi’s response is: “There’s lots of work and there’s always something to do but, as a former market gardener and a former zookeeper (Lucy), we aren’t shy of it. It’s incredibly rewarding. I have to admit that since we welcomed our first child in 2020, life has gotten even busier, but again it’s so worth it. Our daughter will grow up surrounded by nature, I caught myself the other day saying to her ‘one day all this will be yours’ but of course it’s not true, we are but custodians, just passing through, our only job is not to destroy the great gifts that nature provides us so that future generations may receive them too.”
You can find Crooked Boot Farm at Skibbereen, Schull and Kinsale markets throughout spring and summer, as well as on Neighbourfood.ie. They thank you in advance for supporting a small family business.