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Couple put roots down in thriving farm project



Emanuela Russo tending to the tomatoes in the polytunnel while early onions dry on the ground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets a hard-working pair whose sustainable food operation focuses on seasonal fruit and veg

There are salad spinners and there are salad spinners, and until you have visited Fergus Anderson and Emanuela Russo on their small farm outside Loughrea, the chances are you’ll never have seen a salad spinner made out of the drum of a defunct washing machine.

Set into the counter-top of their packing shed, this giant ‘spinner’ is used to give an initial wash to the many varieties of lettuces and herbs they produce at Leaf and Root Farm under the Community Assisted Agriculture scheme

It’s just one example of the creativity this young couple have brought to their sustainable food project, which they’ve developed on two fields beside Fergus’s family home.

Their backgrounds are academic rather than agricultural and both gave up office jobs in Brussels to take on this project. They did so because they believed that developing an environmentally friendly local food production network was the most important work they could do.

Italian-born Emanuela had been a journalist and Fergus worked in advocacy for Via Campesina, an organisation representing peasant farmers. What they learned from that helped to inspire their move.

Four years on, after a lot of ground-breaking and back-breaking work, they are the main fruit and vegetable supplier to Galway’s Michelin-starred Loam Restaurant.

And they are developing a local food supply system that focuses on seasonal fruit and vegetables – with potting sheds and two polytunnels to make the season as long as possible.

The fruit and vegetables grown at Root and Leaf are available to local people via a Community Supported Agricultural scheme, a supply chain that doesn’t involves supermarkets or wholesalers. People sign up for a six-month period and, for that commitment, they get a ‘share’ in a weekly harvest. Vegetables in the shares might include carrots, broccoli and onions as well as more exotic items such as kohlrabi and tomatillos, with recipes for less familiar ingredients. There’s a huge selection of fruit, too, which will start becoming available shortly.

When we meet at their farm on a sunny Friday morning, Fergus and Emanuela, who are as lean and fit as you’d expect hard-working, healthy-eating farmers to be, suggest taking a walk around to see the variety of vegetables and fruit that it’s possible to grow on a small amount of land, and to get a feel for what they’re at.

The walk is punctuated by breaks so we can sample strawberries, salad leaves, and some of the many culinary and medicinal herbs they produce here, including the liquorice-flavoured anise hyssop, so it’s a more than pleasant experience.

As they explain how they are creating raised beds to combat weeds, and using ‘green manure’ to ensure the soil is continually fed, you get an idea of the work involved in keeping Leaf and Root so productive.

Their potting tunnel is the launch point for all their projects; it’s where they plant everything from seed, beginning in February, so they get a head start for the Spring.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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