Organic Farming Scheme is Open for Business
The Organic Farming Scheme was recently re-launched by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. To meet demand for new entrants to organic farming, Teagasc has organised a series of approved organic farming courses commencing on the week beginning 28 March.
These 25 hour courses are FETAC accredited to Level 5 standard and will be run for one day per week over a five week period. The venues for the Introduction to Organic Farming course are: Ballyhaise, Castlerea, Ennis, Killarney, Kilmallock, Mullinavat, Oakpark and Sligo.
Under the organic farming scheme, farmers may enter into a contract for a minimum of five years and could qualify for yearly payments of up to €283 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €142 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status.
Applicants are required to submit a business plan with their application to assess the level of farming activity and suitability of the business. An approved training course is an essential pre-requisite to joining the scheme. This course will be a requirement solely for new applicants who have not taken part in the Organic Supplementary Measure in REPS.
James McDonnell, Teagasc organic specialist said: “The Teagasc course is an excellent way of learning about what is involved in organic farming across a range of enterprises. The course is aimed primarily at those who are considering starting up in organic farming but also at existing organic farmers. The course will involve both indoor sessions and visits to local organic farms. Apart from learning about the principles and standards involved in organic production, participants will get training on completing the farm business plan required for the scheme”. He also pointed out that already over 650 farmers have completed the 25-hour FETAC accredited course across the country.
Farmers attending the course will cover among other topics the principles of organic production, organic standards and regulations and the economics and market opportunities for organic produce. Admission is €200/person or family and pre-booking is essential.
In Ireland the organic sector is growing steadily and currently occupies 1.2% of the total farmed area in the country, a doubling in area over the last decade. Latest Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food figures show there are 1,622 organic operators registered with 52,370 hectares of land under organic production. It is envisaged that the area farmed organically will increase further in the coming years due to a strong market demand for organic produce, the suitability of many farms to organic conversion, and scheme/grant incentives on offer from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.