Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics
Placeholder image

Organic Farming - a farming system that might be for you!

09 June 2023
Type Media Article

John Noonan, Teagasc Organic Advisor, Mayo Galway and Clare

Organic farming is enjoying increasing interest from farmers in recent years. This increased interest has occurred partly due to the rising costs of feed and fertiliser and also the reduction in direct payments of a large number of drystock farmers who were receiving relatively high payments on quite low acreages of land.  These farmers are seeing their direct payments reduce and are looking at options to make up the difference.

However, one of the main reasons why farmers are looking at organics as a system, is that it is increasingly being seen as a way forward in farming that is good for the environment, and as a profitable enterprise that could have real viability for the next generation of farmers. As one very well clued in farmer commented recently on a 25 hour course about mainstream farming- “big turnover; nothing leftover”

There are many differing types of farmers who are joining the organic scheme. Some want to keep production levels high, while there are many joining who are carrying a low stocking rate due to the nature of the ground they are farming; and finally there all those in the middle.  There are well practiced blueprints available for producing finished cattle/lambs/horticulture/ dairy and tillage crops.

There is a big focus in organics on maximising the use of slurry/farmyard manure/white clover/red clover/green crops and on enhancing and improving the soil that in turn nourishes and feeds the crops and animals. Also, organics is increasingly being seen as a way of farming that slows down to work with nature which in turn is better for man and beast.

Organics requires a high level of farm planning especially in terms of growing enough grass, making enough winter feed and matching the stocking rate to the reality of working without artificial fertiliser.

There is lots of advice available from the Teagasc organic team, other organic farmers and the organic certification bodies and DAFM. There is a real sense of community and willingness to help and advise which will only get stronger as the sector develops and grows.

Irish organic food enjoys an excellent reputation both at home and especially across Europe. Latest figures show the organic retail food market in Ireland is now worth over €260 million annually (source: Bord Bia, 2021). There is increasing demand for Irish organic produce, with the challenges of all year round supply and reducing the leakage from the sector, being addressed in the coming years.

At farm level in Ireland, the organic sector has experienced a large influx of new farmers in recent years with 2,200 farmers now farming organically including approximately 380 who entered conversion in spring 2022. Of the 2200 farmers entering the scheme in January 2023, 1400 of them are on the western seaboard from Donegal down to Kerry.  Organically managed land now occupies approximately 2.5% of the total utilizable agricultural area (UAA) in the country, which is over a doubling in area compared to the previous decade. This compares with an average of 8.5% of UAA across the European Union.

See table below for Organic Scheme Payment Rates

  Year 1-21-70ha (€/ha) Year 3-51-70ha (€/ha)
Drystock 300 250
Tillage 320 270
Dairy 350 300
Horticulture 800 600
>70Ha receives €60/Ha in conversion and €30/Ha thereafter
Participation payment = €2,000 in first year and €1,400 per annum thereafter.

The Organic Farming scheme is due to open again in Autumn:  there are a number of farm walks coming up locally in the next few weeks/months where we will help farmers better understand organic farming, remove some of the myths about farming organically and enable them make informed decisions of whether to join the organic farming  scheme or whether organic farming could work on their farm.

The first two walks coming up this summer are:

  • Thursday 8th June @ 2pm - organic farm walk (sheep system) on the farm of Micheal Holmes, Newfield, Mulranny, Westport. Eircode F28X504
  • Wednesday 12th July @ 2pm – organic farm walk (suckler to beef system) on the farm of Oliver and Anna Dixon, Athea, Claremorris.

I can be contacted on 09828333 or email john.noonan@teagasc.ie

Twitter: @TeagascOrganics

Teagasc Website: Organics