The West is awake to organic
Clusters of organic farms are beginning to develop in the west and southwest of the country as increasing numbers of farmers move away from conventional farming.
Farmers from Mayo and Roscommon appear to be leading the move, with higher attendances at Teagasc organic courses than any other counties.
Demand for course places is also strong in counties Limerick, Kerry and Tipperary, according to Teagasc organic specialist Pat Barry.
Over 650 people have completed the 25-hour course with Teagasc since it started and approximately 250 of those have already entered the Department of Agriculture's Organic Farming Scheme.
"The farmers doing the course are mainly drystock, predominantly cattle, with some sheep and some tillage," said Mr Barry. "We tend to see farmers coming from an area where there are already a few organic farms in place," he explained. "It can develop into a cluster of organic farms in one area."
At least 300 new applications are expected to the organic scheme in 2011, which opened on Friday. Grace Maher from the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association said the tight timeframe between now and the closing date of May 17 would put some people under pressure to complete the required FETAC-approved course. However, additional Teagasc course dates will be announced later this week to cater for demand.