Feeding Ourselves annual conference in Cloughjordan

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john.ocallaghan

With farming and the environment facing multiple, interlinked crises, now is the time to come together and try to work out better approaches.

This is the core purpose of Feeding Ourselves, an annual conference in Cloughjordan designed to find and share best practices for the land, soil, climate and rural communities.

This year’s event runs from March 22 and 24, with the main conference and evening time schedule happening on Saturday March 23 in the WeCreate workspace in Cloughjordan’s ecovillage. Friday sees a film screening, Saturday a conference and evening time event, while on Sunday, there is a seed sharing in the Middle Country cafe Cloughjordan from 12pm-4pm and a farm walk on the community owned farm.

“Food hubs, digitization and regenerative farming practices are the three main strands the event focuses on this year, with key participants from these areas coming to share their thoughts and best practice,” said event organiser Davie Philip of Cloughjordan-based sustainability NGO Cultivate.

“What are the opportunities in each of these areas – with Ireland’s high agricultural emissions, with increasing pollution and farmer debt - are there different ways to farm, ways that regenerate rather then exploit the soil, and work carefully with land, water and the broader environment? Are there ways to really engage with consumers who want to spend their money on foods that makes sense to them, in terms of environmental impact, quality or community? What are the threats and opportunities of digitisation in farming and in rural areas? This is a core part of what we’ll be exploring Saturday – in the day and the evening,” emphasised Philip.

Participants can discover how a co-operative approach can strengthen and build more resilient and sustainable food systems, while at the same time supporting our communities and local economies. Case Studies, presentations and breakout discussions will be held on topics such as, Community Supported Agriculture, Food Hubs and other local supply and distribution systems.

“How these three core strands feed into each other, fit into broader considerations of rural revitalisation and also can form part of the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy will inform our afternoon sessions. Farming in particular is facing numerous challenges – we’ve seen a beef calf price collapse, there’s the Brexit threat and numerous environmental challenges. How can or should policy makers and the farming community respond?” added event organiser Dr Oliver Moore, of Paris-based agri-food policy ARC2020.

Senior advisor on agri-food and rural policy in the European parliament Hannes Lorenzen will be present for the Feeding Ourselves weekend, helping facilitate discussions and answer questions.

Eight organisations have come together to put on this event: as well as Cultivate, ARC2020 and Cloughjordan Community farm, support is being given by NOTS (the National Organic Training Skillets), UCC’s Centre for Co-operative Studies, GROW Observatory, Night Orchard, Food Sovereignty Ireland and CSA Ireland.

Saturday evening sees an urgent and compelling conversation between two important new movements - Talamh Beo and Extinction Rebellion Ireland. Talamh Beo is a new, small farmer organisation formed two weeks ago in Galway, where 50 farmers and supporters came together. “This is a grassroots organisation of farmers, growers and land based workers on the island of Ireland which aims to ensure a living landscape where people and ecosystems can thrive together”, the organisation states. It is affiliated with the UK’s Landworker’s Alliance, and the global farmer movement la Via Campesina, which in total represents more than 200 million small agroecological farmers globally.

Fergal Anderson of Talamh Beo told the Irish Examiner recently: “We’re coming to a point where there is a multitude of crises – climate change, economic instability, species extinction. People are thinking more about what’s going on around them – housing and health are on the agenda, but we haven’t taken agriculture out of the hands of the IFA, Bord Bia, the government. We want to give the public the opportunity to get involved. We need a radical transition from the agriculture and land use policies we have at the moment. It requires a huge mobilization of the public and of farmers – farmers have a massive role to play. We need 50 year thinking.”

Extinction Rebellion is a newly formed environmental movement, initiated in the UK in October last year, which has sprung up in response to the twin threats of biodiversity collapse and climate breakdown. Extinction Rebellion nonviolent resistance and innovative actions to mobilise citizens to act on these twin threats: Extinction Rebellion Ireland is the Irish version of this emerging global movement.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland’s most recent event was the Funeral for Humanity held in Dublin and Galway on World Wildlife Day, March 3rd. Talks and presentations have been held around Ireland, including in Cloughjordan and Nenagh in recent weeks.

The Saturday evening programme includes, as well as this important discussion between Talamh Beo and Extinction Rebellion Ireland, a film premiere – In Our Hands – a documentary about new agroecological food producers in the UK made by the Landworker’s Alliance. It also features a sumptuous local food meal, made up of mostly Cloughjordan Community Farm and other local produce and entertainment by conscious poets, musicians and DJs.

Friday and Sunday also sees events, including another film screening (Friday, Symphony of the Soil) a seed swop and farm walk (Sunday).

More information and booking at https://nots.ie/courses/feeding-ourselves-2/

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