Sustainable, local food revolution needed in Ireland

Published by Kayle Crosson on

October 17th, 2019

A sustainable food production movement calling for a revolution in Irish agriculture protested outside of the Department of Agriculture yesterday. 

The protest was held by Talamh Beo, a grassroots farmer movement that formed earlier this year to explore how ecosystems and people can live alongside each other. 

Members of the organization brought buckets of soil from their own farms to symbolize their commitment to “caring for the land, their communities and the environment”. 

Talamh Beo are calling for a sustainable revolution in agriculture that they say will ensure liveable wages for farmers, affordable and nutritious food for consumers, and help protect the environment. 

“Farmers have become locked in a system where they are producing commodities for global markets instead of food, fuel and fibre for their communities,” founding Talamh Beo member Fergal Anderson said. 

“We do not have a diverse integrated production system in Ireland – we have a monoculture of grass, huge fertilizer and feed imports and an almost exclusive focus on the export market,” he added. 

The group hopes to bring sustainable farming alternatives such as biological farming, regenerative agriculture, and agroforestry into the mainstream and are pushing for government support. 

Ireland has many solutions to offer for land use, according to Talamh Beo member Fergal Smith, that need to become the norm in order to “bring about a huge change in how people approach and think about land use and food production”. 

Agriculture Emissions 

To date, agriculture is Ireland’s largest carbon-emitting sector, producing roughly a third of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. 

A number of proposed agricultural actions were put forward in the new Climate Action Plan including improving nitrogen use efficiency and methane-mitigating feed additives for livestock. 

However, many environmental and climate NGOs have said that the Government’s plan may not deliver the necessary emissions reduction required for the industry. 

John Brennan from Talamh Beo said that the government had “again failed to make a bold move to transform Irish agriculture” and has instead “made a few woolly statements”. 

Mr Brennan said that government plans to review the effectiveness of the Teagasc programme that promotes organics and farm income diversification options are “vague platitudes”.

He added that “the effectiveness of Teagasc of promoting organic farming is nothing short of tokenistic and abysmal”. 

The launch came as an ‘open policy debate’ on the future of Irish farming was held at the Aviva Stadium, hosted by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, which Talamh Beo members will also attend. 

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.