'The small farmer is as important as the big operators'
THE Department of Agriculture needs new policies on sustainable farming if rural Ireland is to thrive, says Fergal Anderson, a vegetable producer developing his family's smallholding near Kilrickle in Loughrea, Co Galway.
Fergal was one of the organisers of the recent Talamh Beo meeting in Galway.
The gathering was called to raise the profile of small farmers on the national agenda and ensure that the needs and problems of the small farmer, especially in the West, are addressed by the agri authorities.
Fergal believes that the small farmer in Ireland is being "greenwashed" from the farming agenda as the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia, the co-ops and the big farm organisations focus their energies on scale rather that sustainability.
The 37-year-old says that the future of the small farmer is in peril.
He is equally insistent that the fertiliser-intensive management regime used in Irish farming will have negative consequences in the long term.
"We have to get this problem of greenwashing the small sustainable farmer off the national agricultural agenda stopped, and Talamh Beo is the only farming organisation highlighting the problem", Fergal says.
"The future of farming, especially small farms in isolated rural areas, should be a matter of national discussion by our politicians and media in the same way as our health service and housing problems are."