Saturday, 21 March 2009


Is Sustainable Farming the Future for Inishowen?
Farmers in Inishowen are looking at new ways of earning income and are exploring different options. With this weeks visit by Trevor Sargant, the Minister for Food and Horticulture, who is promoting getting Ireland growing, there is an interest in whether Inishowen’s farming future could lie in sustainable growing.

Growing Food
In the recent months there has been an increase in farmers starting to put in a few vegetables, with seed potatoes flying out of the co-ops. This trend of growing food for the family and maybe keeping a few hens is partly a response to harder times when it might make sense to save a bit of money by growing your own, but there is also an interest for people in growing food as a hobby or for profit.

Organic Farming

Mary Reilly who runs an organic farm in Malin, with her husband John says that the local demand they have for their vegetables far outstrips supply. “We could sell ten times more than we grow. There is a real market for locally grown and organic vegetables.”

Trevor Sargant visited their farm - the most northerly organic farm in Ireland, last night. “A lot of people think that organic growing is really labour intensive”, Mary says “But really, it is no harder than other growing, it just requires a different outlook and approach. It is about cultivating the land, keeping it healthy.”

Direct Selling

People are more interested in where their food is coming from and are happy to support local businesses when they can. Fresh vegetables also taste a lot better. There is a lot of emphasis on quality as well. With supermarkets and processors setting prices for cattle and milk, local food sold from the farm means the farmer gets the profit directly rather than having to pay processors, packaging, transport and supermarkets.

National Organic Training Skillnet
The National Organic Training Skillnet (NOTS) provides high quality, low cost training for the expanding organic sector throughout the Republic of Ireland to farmers, growers, processors, food businesses, and consultants. They have courses in converting to organic and commercial organic horticulture as well as networking events and conferences. They can be contacted on 071 9640688 or through their website

Cereal and other Options
Another possibility is to grow more cereal locally. Local varieties of corn (oats) were grown in Inishowen for years and sustained the population up until the sixties. It is necessary to see what crops and animals are the most suitable for growing locally.

Some farmers have been exploring energy crops such as biomass, but the reality is that the climate and land here in Inishowen is not suited to these crops. There is a good potential here for wind farming though. There are possibilities for forestry as well, and though it is slow growing will be beneficial for future generations.

Increasing Numbers at Agricultural Colleges
Agricultural Colleges are seeing an increase in the numbers of students applying for courses. During the boom years many young people from farming backgrounds found it more profitable to work off farm in the construction industry, however with the recession hitting jobs hard, many young people are returning to the farm and exploring what possibilities it might have to offer.

The latest Cao figures show that a 50% increase in students choosing farming related courses. Damien Dempsey, the Marketing Manager of Agricultural Science at UCD says, “There is a realisation that agriculture and food make up our largest and most important indigenous industries.” Damien has noticed shifts in emphasis in the study of agriculture over the recent years, including more women going to college. “There is more of an emphasis on protection of the environment, how we can feed a growing population and the importance of biofuels.”

Mairead McGuiness Fine Gael MEP who studied agricultural science and economics at UCD said, “More people are realising that farming is a business on our doorstep that needs to be developed. There are difficulties in farming at the moment, but in the long term there will be a growing demand for food.”

SFP Applications On-Line
The Department of Agriculture is hoping to double the amount of farmers who apply for their Single Farm Payment online this year. Last year around 20,000 applications (about 15% of farmers in Ireland) were completed on line. These were submitted by Teagasc advisors, private planners and by farmers themselves. Overall Donegal’s on-line applications were above average, and were the highest in the country for the most applications being submitted by private agents. The number of farmers filling the form in on-line was lower than average.

The biggest advantage of the on-line system is there are less mistakes made due to checks that are built in which means the form cannot be submitted. The on-line service started on Monday (a full week ahead of getting the papers in the post). The department has made the form simpler and the farmer can just tick a box if nothing has changed in their farming system from last year. This applies to a lot of farmers who make no change in the SFP form from one year to the next. If you haven’t registered on-line you can go to or talk to your advisor.

Decline in Sheep Numbers Spark Fire Fears
Inishowen has seen a steep decline in sheep numbers over the last few years. The weather and land here in the peninsula have meant that we have one of the best climates in Europe for grass growing and hill and sheep farming. However, with the price of lamb dropping there is very little profit in sheep these days. With the introduction of the Single Farm Payment in 2005, the amount of animals that farmers kept made no difference to the subsidy, so there was no incentive to keep the livestock. Another factor, was when the economy was booming, it was more profitable to work off farm.

With the numbers falling, especially on the hills where there are fewer farmers working, there is a worry that the hillsides will become overgrown. Farmers have expressed concerns that in dry weather, this may lead to more hill fires like the ones that we saw in Buncrana a couple of years ago. This could have a devastating impact on the local flora and fauna.

Inishowen Sees Large Increase in Wild Deer
Farmers have noticed a large increase in wild deer throughout the county in the last year. Deer have been spotted in West Inishowen around the Linsfort area and can be a nuisance to farmers. These deer have expanded out from places like Glenveagh National Park and are taking advantage of the increase in forestry for which there have been grants available.

Inishowen’s hills are suitable for planting trees and it is a good long term investment for our future. The wild deer are using the forestry as cover and are causing damage to fences and worrying cattle. They are also a threat to crops and trees.

“They are not a major problem as it would not be difficult to cull them,” says a spokesperson from Teagasc.

Agricultural Gas Emissions Falling
New research from Teagasc shows that Greenhouse Gas emissions from agriculture are falling but further reductions are necessary. The Irish government have signed up to an EU commitment to reduce Ireland’s total emissions by between 20 and 30% by 2020.

The agricultural Greenhouse Gases in Ireland are much higher than in other countries as we are highly export focussed here which means they are larger than if we were simply supplying the domestic market.

Teagasc has warned that if significant reductions are demanded it may only be possible if the Irish cattle population were to go into steep decline over the next ten years.

Scientific research is exploring changes to farming methods but it will take time for this process to happen. Because of this, it is certain that there will have to be adjustments in agriculture as well as all other sectors of the economy.

Nitrates top SFP penalties
Over €300,000 in penalties will be taken off the 2008 Single Farm Payment to Irish farmers, during inspections.
The issue of Nitrates tops the penalties, with nearly one in five farmers in Ireland not being compliant in some way.
This increas was partly due to a tightening in the level of tolerances before getting a penalty. The biggest jump in penalties was during sheep inspections.
There was also a slight increase in the number of farmers penalised under most categories such as GAEC, Welfare, Food Hygiene and Feed. The majority of penalties imposed on farmers in breach were 1%.
The Department is due to meet farm organisations in the coming weeks to discuss how penalties under Nitrates Regulations are imposed.

Plant and Machinery, Ramelton
Plant & Machinery Moorefield Ramelton are the only Zetor tractor dealers in Donegal. Plant and Machinery is a family owned business run by Peter McConigley and is situated on the main Letterkenny to Ramelton Road.

They exclusively stock the brand new 2008 and 2009 Zetor range, the Proxima, Proxima plus and the Forterra. They also stock a large range of second hand tractors and farm machinery as well as new and used plant machinery. In stock they have Zetor drum mowers, Malone Toppers, Malone standard and tilt post Drivers and new Link Boxes. They also have second hand dumpers and diggers. Why not check out their website or call on 074 9151775 0r 086 8724621

1 comment:

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