Conservation the focus of Farm Walk and Talk 2021

Image Credit: Sinéad Mohan

Agri Aware held its annual Farm Walk and Talk event online with a series of informative videos, delivered by figures from within the agri-food industry.

: Agri Aware is a body which works to create awareness, at a national level, of the value agriculture and farming has to the country and its consumers, as well as the role farmers play as stewards of the environment. The organisation brings to the public the high standard of animal welfare maintained on Irish farms, allowing the public to gain an insight into the way farms work and also the process of how locally produced Irish food comes to sit on the shelves of supermarkets across the country.

Agri Aware’s Farm Walk and Talk week was taken online this year due to covid-19 public health and safety guidelines. The event had previously showcased Irish agriculture in a practical light with talks taking place in Teagasc colleges and research farms across the country, over which leading agri-food experts gave talks and features on the important topics facing Irish agriculture. These were topics pf importance for both for the farmer and the consumer. This initiative run by Agri Aware does not only improve the baseline level of interaction between consumers and Irish farmers, but helps educate and encourage the youth coming up through the education system that have an interest in agriculture, both on the practical and theoretical elements of the sector.

The twelve part video series was shot in Kildalton Agricultural College in Kilkenny and features expert Teagasc staff giving in-depth talks and demonstrations. The topics of the talks ranged from grassland management to farm health and safety and the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. The consumer was engaged through talks on the beef and sheep production systems used in Ireland, along with explainers on dairy breeding and the crop production cycle of winter barley grown in Irish soils.

The Agri Aware initiative looks to educate and engage the consumer on the Irish system for food production, its efficacy and simply shows how the food we eat is grown, produced and processed in order to reach shops fit for consumption.

Videos not only give in-depth discussions on the overall systems of production, but also the ways in which farmers can enhance environmental conservation and improve the sustainability of farming practices. Agri Aware chairperson Alan Jagoe voices the events’ importance to “showcase the many positive environmental practices Irish farmers are implementing every day on their farms”. Not only this, but also how it can be easily improved in some cases and become a continuation of the efforts put in by farmers across the country to boost environmental efforts of conservation.

A look into the content of the video series shows the role agriculture is playing in climate change as well as how farmers can help improve and enhance their efforts facing environmental conservation. Martin Raftice of Kildalton College speaks of how “Agriculture (at 35%) is a major contributor of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland”, whereby this could be a major obstacle in the path to increasing the size of the national dairy herd. With numbers slowly increasing year on year following the removal of milk quotas, this is something policymakers must be mindful of. Research into the amount of methane being produced and how this can be reduced will be an important  part of the solution to this environmental issue.

Events such as the Farm Walk and Talk not only provide a useful learning tool for leaving certificate agricultural science students this year who would lack the practical insights into Irish agriculture while studying from home for the past few months, but also consumers who are the reason the market for Irish produce is so substantial. However, consumers fall short in their knowledge with regards to how the products they buy and consume ends up on the shop shelf. Some consumers disregard farming practices used day to day on Irish farms and take the options provided by alternative production systems used around the globe as the main source of their food. From intensive indoor animal production systems, veal production and the stigma surrounding the dairy industry, the consumer today is fed information regarding agricultural production systems from all parts of the world.