food harvest 2020

Forum for discussions about food security and food systems.

food harvest 2020

Postby Michael Layden » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:13 pm

Andy Wilson and myself have been discussing the Department of Agriculture, food and the marine surreal document "Food Harvest 2020" over the last two weeks. We both ended up sending in submissions.
I'm attaching my one and Andy's is at http://www.sustainability.ie/perspectiv ... re.1.0.pdf
Michael
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Michael Layden » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:18 pm

The Departments document is at
http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/agri-food ... rvest2020/
Didn't succeed in attaching my document to first post
Attachments
NorthWestGroup.FoodHarvest2020.pdf
In response to Food harvest 2020
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Emer O'Siochru » Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:18 pm

Hi Michael,


Owenroe Lemass and I also put in a submission, just on the topic of the environmental impact of higher numbers of housed animals and proposals to deal with it. It was submitted by EOS Future Design — my day job so to speak. EOS Future Design/EOS Sustainable Systems designs and develops farm based anaerobic digesters so I have an economic interest.

The Irish Environmental Network made a submission too which is very critical of FoodHarvest2020 as it stands.
Attachments
DAFM Submission AD, FH_2020.pdf
(255.16 KiB) Downloaded 181 times
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Michael Layden » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:12 am

Hi Emer,
It's funny how little patience I have with the lack of reality in Public documents nowadays. I find it bizarre that the department is looking for submission looking at the environmental impact of a policy document which completely ignores the major challenges ahead.

All human activity will have some negative consequences for the natural environment. Businesses however works on the understanding, that the economic gains are worth the environmental sacrifices. This awful Faustian bargain only works if the economic gains are real.

We cannot afford to waste economic, environmental, infrastructural or any other resources on economic pipe dreams such as FH2020. Even after the complete insanity of the property bubble we have absolutely no questioning of the underlying economic system.

Good to see someone plugging small scale AD, these I think will be a critical asset in years to come, particularly as we are forced to localise production by economic and resource constraints. 1000 AD plants would make a huge difference in terms of the viability of farm enterprises as we face huge volatility in the years ahead

Michael
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Emer O'Siochru » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:11 pm

Thanks Michael.

Rural ADs will not only help farmers, it will help other rural dwellers who do not own land and urban dwellers who might like to eat and keep the lights on! Did you ever read Raymond Crotty's first book on Irish agriculture? He is scathing on farmers. He advocated a land value tax to redress the fact that they got the land too cheap from the Land Acts and later Land Commission and have been farming since to maximise their own welfare with the least amount of work and investment. And why wouldn't they do so says you. Non land inheriting families had to emigrate — as did my entire family on Dad's side. All the incentives support maximising existing farming practices, as does the environmental sector because they think that extensive lazy farming is less hard on the environment. If we can't do better than that we are finished, is my own view. We need farmers that can maximise food and carbon and biodiversity and if the current lot can't meet the challenge, another lot has to be given a go. It will need intelligence, hard work and capital, commodities which are not often embodied in a single landowner.

Emer
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby AndyWilson » Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:06 pm

From Emer's previous post:

"If we can't do better than that we are finished, is my own view. We need farmers that can maximise food and carbon and biodiversity and if the current lot can't meet the challenge, another lot has to be given a go. "

Yes it would be good for both the farmers AND (especially) the Dept of Agriculture to hear that sort of message and hear it loudly and often. The Department of Agriculture, in particular, is so far removed from the real world I wonder do its advisers spend too much time reading Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll)?

However, there is no obvious mechanism for the type or scale of transformation required. Am I alone in thinking the system actually does need to go down, before there is any real possibility of change?

This debate is how old? Thirty years? More? Its 40 years since Limits to Growth was published.
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Emer O'Siochru » Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:49 pm

Andy,

There are many who think that the system has to go down before it can be changed but I am not one of them. It is possible to change, beginning now, but it is difficult to say exactly how as the innovation/s that breaks us out of the current logjam will not reveal itself until its effect is felt. We must consciously try new methods, technologies, systems in the hope one goes viral. It is in these chaotic times at the end of a previously stable system that small changes can have very big effects. I see that the conscious design of new money systems has now gone mainstream - it will not be long before there is enough understanding and energy behind a new money model for it to get serious traction. I am delighted to see more interest and discussion of the idea of commons, especially linked to taxes and charges. I see people trying new models of co-operation and ownership of businesses and of property. Not so many in Ireland as yet, I agree. I am trying out new farming, land husbandry, building construction and nutrient capture ideas in a small farm in Tipperary. When I have got it running smoothly, I intend to offer a new form of co-ownership /partnership for other people who love the land. If we all try out our best guess solutions, at least some of us will get lucky.
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Michael Layden » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:56 am

Hi Emer, I think that strategic projects are an incredibly important part of the work we all need to be doing. What your doing on the farm in Tipperary is just the sort of project we need. The work Andy is doing on Fruit and nut trees is also critical. Much of this research by it's nature has long time lines. With tree crops its many years and even decades before they will have any impact. Then as our climate changes the complexity of the research becomes greater. We need to really try much wider ranges of solutions as some will prove to have problems with our new climate.

This however highlights what I think is the key problem we have, they are solutions to many problems we have but we do not have the time for them. We should have seen 2008 as a major wake up call but we still haven't had any meaningful debate at policy level in government about the way forward. What is a lot more frustrating is the obsession with returning to where we were a few years ago. It is almost cringe worthy seeing the weekly announcements that the property crash has reached its bottom and that property is again the place to invest. (last weeks report from the CSO must have been seriously annoying for them)
Fixing the system might have been possible twenty years ago but now it is almost impossible to see any situation where a hard crash can be avoided.
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby roy johnston » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:48 am

I have only recently had my attention drawn to this discussion; I have been a slow learner about how to use the Feasta discussion system. It happens however that this Emer/Andy discussion is close to an ongoing concern of mine: the need to recover the experience of the large-scale labour-employing mixed-farming practice of well-managed estates prior to land division, via a constructive approach to the Farm Partnership Scheme.

According to my father Joe Johnston (1890-1972) who pioneered development economics in Ireland in the 1920s and 30s, the productivity per man and per acre of such estates was a factor of 2 above that of the sub-divided farm, the latter usually working in mono-culture mode, while the former had a productive combination of all forms of livestock, tillage (food and fodder), and horticulture in a managed walled garden; this system lends itself to local added-value, which in the old days serviced, as well as the market, the quality food needs of the 'big house'. He published some analysis of surviving labour-employing big farms in the SSISI during the 1940s. He attempted to interact constructively with the co-operative movement, including the classic RM Burke 'estate to co-op' hand-over in the 1940s, which however failed, and was in the end sub-divided.

I have been urging the need to explore the feasibility of using the Teagasc 'farm partnership scheme' to explore how to revive this system, substituting totally the urban quality food market for the 'big house', via an appropriate co-operative management system. An interested contact in Teagasc is Aine Macken-Walsh, and there seems to be some interest in the need to maximise the local added-value.

In the foregoing discussion notes there is a reference to ADs; to what does this abbreviation refer? I detect however much common ground.
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby Emer O'Siochru » Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:19 pm

Hi Michael and Roy!

While I do not believe the current system will continue, I do not think that it has to crash to transform. If it crashes, little of its valuable benefits will survive to serve a new system. I do not come from the Protestant pre-deterministic apocolyptic tradition — my background is Catholic where hope is almost obligatory. Teihard de Chardin figured from his work as a paleontologist that while it is not guaranteed, humankind (including a recognisable civilisation) has a high likelihood of success of surviving these crisis times.

My farm is not that ambitious in terms of agricultural innovative techniques. It uses old knowledge - Dexter cows with new knowledge on grassland management. The only food producing trees I am trying is a row of hazel inoculated with truffles. I am claiming every grant aid available—without apology— to upgrade the land and add energy efficient buildings. Tourism and vistor receipts will generate further funds to try more things. I have three Kerry Bog Ponies that I want to train up to pull traps and carts for instance.

My AD (anerobic digester) development project is a more ambitious. It is an old but unappreciated technology with particular relevance for these times. AD can produce transport energy, heat and electricity , fertilizers and soil conditioners—a veritable lifeboat of services for any community. It can also reduce pathogens and weed seed spread. Up front costs are high that is why investor capital is needed. Expertise is needed too. I do not see it as a project just for farmers - in fact I would actively oppose that as farmers already have too much ownership of vital resources as it is. The farm partnership model advocated by Teagasc and the IFA allows for non-landowners - an important advance. I also campaign for a land tax so that when the bad times come, the landless are not held to ransom by the landed, and so that farmland is productively and sustainably to the maximum by those who have the energy and knowledge to do so. Raymond Crotty had a lot to say on this subject in his first book with which I heartily agree. We are producign a book on this subject soon - titled The Smart Tax (supported by history, agreed by economists, feared by the 1%). No idea why the recent Feasta Newsletter did not have this info...
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Re: food harvest 2020

Postby roy johnston » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:52 pm

Thanks Emer for the clarification.

I do indeed come from a Protestant background, but I don't think the 19thC RDS landed gentry were the originators of productive managed large-scale mixed farming combined with horticulture; this goes back to the monasteries in Norman times, and perhaps earlier. I have a high regard for Teilhard de Chardin, whose philosophy I helped Derry Kelleher to promote in the 1960s, at a time when there was an active emergent 'Catholic Left'.

I was not aware of AD as short for 'anaerobic digestion'; however my father and I were on to this in the 1950s, and I was promoting it in the 1970s via my Irish Times science and technology column at the time of the first oil crisis. It could perhaps be the key to optimising the scale of the productive co-operative multi-product system. I am in two minds whether this should be based on the requirement to fuel a cold store for added-value food products, as well as heating a glass-house,, or a CHP system supplying the local village hot water supply and the grid. The CHP aspect is I think important if AD is used for electricity generation. If 10 100ha farms combine to develop a 1000ha system, what would be the scale of the AD output? A limiting factor could be the cost of locally transporting the raw input.

It is possible to do pilot system work on a small individual scale, and good luck to you in what you are doing. I visited some time ago an organic farm in Meath specialising in free-range pigs and poultry; the pig, poultry and feed-production fields were rotated, with the pigs contributing considerable ploughing energy in the cycle. She had also a grass ley field, for horses, which she sold to the jumping community; she regarded this as a by-product. It would be interesting to do a worm-count in her soil compared to neighbours. She also was into adapting the hedging in support of bees and pollen etc, but was not much yet into horticulture; this was an obvious next step. Her neighbours had a few sad cattle in ragwort-infested fields; there is no doubt she was very productive. If she were to get into cows and milk she would need to scale up substantially. Perhaps by now this has happened. But maybe milk and meat are of decreasing relative importance?

I am doing my own pilot experimentation with fruit and vegetables in an urban garden in Rathmines. I am depending on kitchen compost supplemented by wood ash fortified with urine, and I am wondering how best to optimise the N/P/K/trace-element mix. Any suggestions? I have had a serious slug problem. In an earlier version a decade ago I had a pond, with frogs, and these took care of the slugs.

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