Exploring the ways in which farmers can diversify and respond to climate change will be among the talking points at an event in Co. Kerry tonight (Friday, September 30).
The Farmers’ Forum is part of the opening events at the Dingle Food Festival, which is being revived this weekend following an enforced hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event, coordinated by the Dingle Hub and funded by the Creative Climate Action Fund and Science Foundation Ireland, will hear from farmers, food producers and the restaurant sector.
Among the speakers will be artist and organic farmer Lisa Fingleton who will share her experiences from ‘Corca Dhuibhne Inbhuanaithe’, a project backed by Creative Ireland.
Throughout 2022, Fingleton has been working with ten farming families documenting their concerns and illustrating the challenges they face with climate change and biodiversity loss.
“Famers are, in my opinion, the guardians of the land and we really know what’s best for the land.
“We didn’t want to focus on all of the problems, we wanted to focus on the solutions and the ideas that farmers have.
“The project is called ‘A Creative Imagining’, so it is about how we imagine a future in which we have to do some serious transformation and adaptation.
“We worked with the farmers to help them draw out their ideas,” Lisa told Agriland.
Together they have been investigating diversification options such as organic farming, value-added food production, agri-tourism, anaerobic digestion (AD) and farming for nature.
The west Kerry-based project was recently invited by Creative Ireland to ‘take over’ a 33-metre wall on the Government of Ireland stand at the National Ploughing Championships.
‘The Future is in the Fields’ interactive drawing allowed farmers from across the country to add their views and opinions to the project.
“Once farmers realised that we were serious about listening to their solutions, they took it really seriously,” Fingleton said.
“We had hundreds of farmers that filled in postcards for us with their ideas, then we literally drew them on the wall.”
Among the issues raised was a need to reduce the bureaucracy facing farmers who are working to protect the environment and the land.
“People felt that the small farmers are getting squeezed out – that came up again and again. We need to protect small farmers as they tend to have minimum impact on the land.”
Lisa noted that there were “loads of suggestions” centering around energy, including anaerobic digestion (AD) and solar panels.
“There was a lot of frustration about the food system that we have, people felt that they need to take back the control from factories.
“We all have to work together to support farming. It’s not enough for farmers to be growing wonderful food, the consumers need to support that and the restaurants need to be buying it,” she said.
The wall is now being installed in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) to feature as part of its ‘Earth Rising’ festival in October.
The Kerry farmers will also visit the museum to discuss the project with members of the public.
“It’s really that job of engaging consumers and showing them how to help.
“By buying local food, checking where things are from, supporting Irish farmers and growers – that really is where the change happens,” Fingleton said.