We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with and Q&A with former Vice President of Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Tim and his wife, Katherine O’Leary. Katherine O’Leary is a writer for the Irish Farmers journal. It was a great experience, and we left that meeting with better knowledge of how the Irish agriculture operations, and has changed through the years.
Tim began the meeting with a little background of Ireland agriculture. Before that, we also visited the Blarney Castle (take a look at this blog also), and he said that if we had looked south we would have seen his farm, which was really cool how Ireland is all the same, and how far out you can see into the rolling hills. Continuing on with the background of Ireland agriculture, agriculture is good for the economy and society; it is bread basket of Great Britain. Ireland was not an industrialized country, and it really has not had to be one, but it may eventually need to be. The people of Ireland mostly survived on butter milk and potatoes, and it increased fertility, and the population jumped to 8 million. One of the biggest natural disasters that drastically effected Ireland was the potato famine. The potato famine was part of the result of bad policy making by Great Britain. It dropped the population 1million from 8 million in 3 years because of death, and people immigrated because there was anything there for the people anymore.
So, to prevent this problem again Ireland applied to join the U.C. , also known the European Union in 1960, but were out booted by a different country, and were able to join in 1973. The union helps with different policies for 29 countries. It also helps to reduce wars, and is known as a force of peace, and economic power house. A very interesting fact as to why commercial fishing is not as huge of a deal in Ireland is the European Union made the political decision to make its main focus on agriculture, so fishing has not had the opportunity to be structured like the agriculture industry. There are fishing farms, but most of the product is shipped outside of Ireland to London or Japan. This union has also made the policies to not accept or use any GMO technology, clones, inhibitors or growth hormones. One of the main reasons, Tim said, was because the science has not been around enough for full evidence for long term effects.
Since this was a meeting with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), it would be good to explain what this organization is and does for the farmers Ireland. It began in 1955, and started out as National Farmers’ Association, but latter changed because there was another NFA, and to be less confusing they changed it to Irish Administration to Irish Farmers Association. Their goal was to bring balance between government and agriculture. They lobby for the farmers. When this first began, farmers marched to the minsters office, and sat on the steps for 10 days before they minister agreed to see them to work on policies for farmers. Being in IFA, the only requirements are pay a membership fee. The members get great benefits: they get insurance, deductions, vacations, and it keeps farmers self-financing.
Tim and Katherine O’Leary gave great information into the insight of Ireland agriculture, mostly Tim. It seems like the people are more opinionated and set in their way to make profit, and not to worry about output. Grass fed is the big focus here, and they will not feed anything else because they cannot grow it and it’s too expensive to import; to them if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, and that’s all she wrote.