A new "grassroots" farming organisation – consisting of farmers, growers and landworkers - is set to launch next week.
Talamh Beo was partly inspired by the success of the Landworkers' Alliance in the UK.
It will stage its launch outside the Department of Agriculture in Dublin on October 16th which will coincide with an open policy debate on the future of Irish farming, hosted by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.
Talamh Beo believes that a revolution in Irish agriculture could result in farmers earning a decent living, producing affordable, nutritious food for people in Ireland and also protecting the environment against the looming climate and biodiversity crises.
The organisation says it wants to bring a new narrative to the debate about food and farming.
‘Locked in a system’
Fergal Anderson, a Galway fruit and vegetable farmer and a founding member of Talamh Beo, said: “Farmers have become locked in a system where they are producing commodities for global markets instead of food, fuel and fibre for their communities.”
“They have very little power in this system and have lost almost all their autonomy and links with their localities.”
“We do not have a diverse, integrated production system in Ireland – we have a monoculture of grass, huge fertiliser and feed imports and an almost exclusive focus on the export market”. Anderson added.
Tipperary dairy farmer Mimi Crawford, added: “We’re building a farmer-led organisation which shows the real alternatives on offer in terms of production, distribution and ecological farming and land use – where farmers earn a livelihood, people get high-quality nutritious food and the ecosystems we depend on are regenerated and restored.”
Many of its members are already engaged in biological farming, organics, agro-ecological production, regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, direct sales and marketing and other production systems that offer an alternative to the status quo. They want to bring those alternatives into the mainstream – and are looking for policies from Government which support local food production and distribution as well as regenerative, organic and agro-ecological land-use systems.
“We have so many solutions to offer for land use – in practice, on our farms. We need to make some of these examples the norm, and bring about a huge change in how people approach and think about land use and food production in Ireland” says Fergal Smith from Moyhill Farm, Clare.
Talamh Beo wants people to think about food sovereignty – how decisions are made, where Ireland’s agricultural economy fits into global markets, how land can be used to meet direct needs and how a more resilient, fair and long-term model can be built for how land is utilised in Ireland.
Talamh Beo has joined the international movement of peasant farmers La Via Campesina, becoming “Ireland's only member through its European branch”, the European Coordination Via Campesina.
The group said that this will give it representation in consultative groups of the EU Commission and network opportunities with other European farmers groups with similar goals.