Attitudes changing as farmers see the value of going 'organic'
In the not so distant past conventional farmers would have looked down on their organic farmer colleagues as a bunch of ideological, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing hippies whose aim was to religiously pursue the green agenda.
This thinking has changed over the past number of years thanks in no small part to the Organic Demonstration Farm Open Days held during the summer months. These open days, which are organised by Teagasc and Department of Agriculture, showcase what is best about organic farming systems. All enterprises are covered and many conventional farmers leave these events with a changed attitude to the "green" option.
Organic farmers will tell you that when they convert they are often viewed with scepticism by their neighbours, but this quickly changes to admiration when the animals continue to thrive, crops continue to grow and the farm is not overcome with weeds.
Indeed, neighbours are often envious when they are told that the system is more profitable than it was in the past as the gap between input costs and products sold widens.
In order for an organic farming system to be profitable and to maintain levels of production as high as possible the farmer will need to be aware of the nutrient value of animal manures, the importance of clover and the need for high levels of animal welfare.
As well as that, the farmer needs to be able to produce products which are in demand and at times of the year that consumers are willing to purchase them. The farmer needs to always have an eye of the person that is purchasing their product and paying a premium price for it.
Conventional farmers can definitely learn from their organic colleagues who farm with no artificial fertilisers, no sprays and reduced veterinary inputs. Remember, none of us has a monopoly on knowledge.
Markets for organic produce have held up well despite the recession -- this will be examined in more detail in later articles. National Organic Week (September 13-19) will allow people the opportunity to see what organic produce is available locally. Events are organised nationwide and times and venues can be found on www.bordbia.ie.