The LeadFarm Project conference, featuring the work of European cooperative partners from Ireland and other states, was hosted by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) earlier today, Wednesday, July 24.

At the conference, which was opened by Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle, ICOS showcased key insights concerning the LeadFarm training programme which will be launched and rolled out across a number of European states – Ireland, Spain, France, Latvia and Sweden.

The programme will support young European farmers and their businesses at farm gate level, helping them to realise their future ambitions within the sector, according to ICOS.

The training programme will cover topics such as management, finance, policy, legislation, marketing and sustainability – key issues within the co-operative agricultural sector.

Featuring an online training platform with training materials for young farmers and a train-the-trainer programme, the programme will enable participants from the five countries to deliver the programme in their home country.

The online programme uses a variety of methods to support the learning process including “gamification”, a new concept in the dairy sector.

Programme leaders and participants: Anders Pettersson, Sweden; Alvaro Perez, Spain; Enda Shalvey, Cavan; Elina Ozola, Latvia; and Adrien Nicey, France, with Billy Goodburn, ICOS Skillnet; Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle; and Jerry Long, ICOS president. Image source: Alf Harvey

At the conference, which was held in The Killashee House Hotel in Naas, delegates from across Europe and the Irish agricultural sector discussed the training programme and broader co-operative agricultural sector issues.

Commenting on the LeadFarm Conference and new training programme, Minister Andrew Doyle said: “Access to land, credit and educational opportunities remain at the heart of challenges facing our young farmers, not just in Ireland, but across the European Union.

Projects such as LeadFarm play a critical role in addressing these challenges, offering our young farmers the opportunity to learn from each other, sharing ideas and innovation, and improving technical skills while promoting a cooperative approach to farming, and strengthening our family farms for the future.

Jerry Long, president of ICOS, added: “The cooperative agricultural sector faces challenges associated with succession and the sustainable development of farms, in Ireland and across Europe.

“The training programme is a key element of the future sustainability of the sector and also broadening it to ensure greater inclusivity with regard to gender.”

The LeadFarm training programme is part of the LeadFarm Project. The project is funded through the European Union Erasmus Plus Programme, which is managed by Léargas in Ireland.

The LeadFarm Project was established by ICOS (the lead partner) in partnership with five organisations from five different EU member states – two from southern Europe (Spain and France), one from eastern Europe (Latvia) and two from northern Europe (Ireland and Sweden).

The LeadFarm Project aims to encourage a generational and gender balance in the co-operative agricultural sector through strengthening the capabilities of young generation of farmers (men and women) in order to ensure the generational shift in their family farms and co-operatives.