Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 16 December 2017

Why Greens are growing on me

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Like most children, I was told to eat my greens or I wouldn't grow big and strong. Cabbage and spinach were always the last to be cleaned off the plate. Perhaps this left me and many others with an antipathy towards greens and, for a time, affected our attitude towards politicians of that hue.

But we all grow up and now I can think of nothing better than a feed of cabbage and bacon or poached egg on spinach. I have learnt that greens are good for me and I also believe that the Greens in Government are doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

It has been suggested that the Green Party is not good for farmers. This is an opinion that I believe is generally aired by people with narrow viewpoints and who cannot see beyond their own specific interests. Unfortunately, it's commonplace here in Ireland to find the concept of acting for the greater good being ridiculed. Individuals or groups with vested interests will often refuse to support politicians who work for the benefit of the nation.

What is wrong with a bit of honesty and standing by one's principles? It often seems as if we have become so used to dishonesty that we expect it and think something's wrong if a politician shows they are keen to act for the country's benefit.

We have voted for gombeen politicians for years and many of them have simply lined their own pockets at our expense. I often despair at the difficulty of getting principled and honest Government where people show leadership and take hard but necessary decisions to get our economy moving again, all the while ensuring our countryside remains a clean and healthy place to live in.

With all the current rules and regulations we must comply with, farming is a tough enough way to make a living, but we well know the difference between right and wrong.

If we spread nutrients on land beyond a certain level the excess gets washed into our watercourses. Throughout the world, controls are being introduced to prevent the death of rivers and lakes. It's just common sense and I fail to see why any farmer feels they have the right to cause pollution that affects neighbours' wellbeing.

The IFA will howl in protest when further environmental controls are introduced, but what about the rights of children to swim or fish in a local river, or the rights of people dependant on tourism? Tourism is vital to our rural economy, and who would want to visit a country that has polluted its watercourses? In every election we have groups lobbying to have rivers drained without ever considering the facts that this will actually increase flood damage and ruin the natural life of the river while destroying fishing, a sport enjoyed by many of our citizens and tourists.

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In Holland they are restoring flood plains to ensure that, during times of heavy rain, water movement is slowed down so that it will gradually disperse rather than rush headlong to inevitably flood low-lying towns. In Ireland we demand the opposite. The Dutch know a thing or two about controlling water but we tend to ignore the obvious.

Consumers now demand clean, wholesome food and are showing this in their spending habits. Just take a look at the TV adverts for food products and see how companies are marketing their goods with images of a green countryside teeming with wildlife, wild flowers, woodland and hedgerows. They do this because it sells food.

Bord Bia and Bord Failte spend millions to portray Ireland as a green and pleasant country. Hotels, restaurants and farm guesthouses fall over themselves to promote the best of our produce. Good, wholesome food sells and anything that tarnishes our image as food producers will hurt our pockets.

It is often said Green Party supporters are urban rather than rural dwellers and are unaware of the realities and economics of farming. Tell that to the many artisan food producers in west Cork or Donegal making a good living selling dairy, meat and grain products, or to farmers who have invested in forestry and tourism.

A healthy diet consists of fruit, greens, cereals, meat and dairy produce. It is the same with Government -- without a balance of opinions and policies, the national good will suffer. Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow, but the fact is there: Greens are good for you.

Irish Independent