Why go Organic – Waster 1998

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All over Europe, organic farming is expanding, less so in Ireland even though most Irish farmers could easily make the transition.  From organically produced meat, fruit and veg and wine, to speciality shops and restaurants, organic produce is now big business.

Over the last decade the demands for fresh chemical-free produce has escalated to such an extent that it is no longer essential to go to the health-food shop or the country markets to find these products – a trip to your local supermarket can supply all your needs.

This demand has come about for a variety of reasons the main being human health.  There is a growing belief in the medical world that many of today’s illnesses are diet related.  Many of us suffering from allergies, digestive disorders, migraine, asthma and even cancer are being advised to change to a more natural diet and to include as much organic foodstuffs as possible.  Concern has been expressed about the high-usage of antibiotics in farm animals which in turn enter the food-chain and lead to a build-up is being blamed for immunity to certain antibiotics used to treat illness.

To meet this increasing demand a highly lucrative business has grown up around the growth, promotion and consumption of organic produce.  This business is not embarked upon purely for the “feel good factor” but also because it is a highly lucrative market.  This is big business.

In Ireland there are two main regulating bodies recognised by the government whose approved symbol guarantees the consumer that the product is completely organic.  These are the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA) and the Organic Trust.  Both groups set rigorous criteria to define what is and what isn’t an organic food.  An organic product is defined as one which is grown without artificial pesticides and fertilisers, is produced without damaging the environment, is from a farming system where the welfare of animals is a priority and comes from farms which have been rigorously inspected.

IOFGA with over 600 producer members, is the largest certification and training organisation.  The majority of the members are livestock producers.  Despite the high prices carried by most organic foods consumer demand far outstrips supply and while there are many undergoing the conversion process to become recognised organic producers, more suppliers are needed especially horticultural.

The Department of Agriculture, in recognition of the rise in demand for organic produce, has provided £1 million over five years for the marketing distribution and processing of organic produce, (In Denmark, a country not dissimilar to Ireland the equivalent figure is £100 million!) In addition, the Organic Farming Supplementary Measure to the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) offers financial incentives as part of a 5 year REPS plan.  Despite this, Irelands still lags behind – some EU countries have up to 20% organic production.

Here in Athenry there exists the ideal circumstances for the production of humane, natural and healthy food; our environment is relatively unpolluted; we have a history of farming and livestock production; there is good grazing and successful organic farms are already established.

The interest in, and indeed the need for, organic foodstuffs is aptly summed up in the following words: “During the last decades we have witnessed the development of large and serious problems arising from the activities of conventional agriculture.  We need to develop agriculture as an organism, to understand it as a living ecosystem, which is taken from the model of nature herself and is an alternative to intensification, specialisation and reliance on chemical input” (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements)

Sources – IOFGA- 56 Blessington Street, Dublin 7.

Henry Doubleday Research Association Coventry.  UK

Athenry ADC Ltd intend to organise a training course in Organic Horticulture.  Those interested in taking part should contact the office at Caheroyan, Athenry.

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About this record

Written by Kieran Hickland

Published here 29 Mar 2023 and originally published Easter 1998

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