Farming community invited to raise challenges, ideas and solutions at next week’s regional event in the Ard Rí House Hotel in Tuam
Farmers from all across the west are being invited to attend a regional agricultural conference in Tuam on Thursday evening next, February 23rd, where the future of farming and rural communities will take centre stage. The event, which is being hosted by the Fine Gael National Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (NAFRD) Forum, will enable farmers and community organisations to raise the issues that matter most, allowing them to set the agenda and have their voices heard, according to local MEP Maria Walsh.
The Midlands-North-West MEP will address next week’s conference, which takes place in the Ard Rí House Hotel in Tuam, Co Galway, from 8pm on February 23rd. Speaking ahead of the event, she stressed that this will be a forum where people will be given a voice, enabling them to set the agenda and bring their concerns and challenges to the table.
“This conference is about us working together, encouraging young women and men to look seriously at the agri and rural sector as a career choice, and ensuring that we keep our small villages and communities alive. We need to explore the future of farming from a social perspective and it is crucial that we hear from those with wellies on the ground, so we can best represent the present and future development of farming, with their ideas and solutions driving this important sector.”
A proud west of Ireland woman, and a young farmer at her home in Mayo, MEP Walsh recognises that the agricultural industry is the backbone of so many communities.
Particularly in the West of Ireland. “Representing over 7% of our total Irish workforce, the impact of our farmers and their families is incredibly important. Ireland’s agri-food sector delivers excellent food and produce for thousands and thousands of homes, across the world. The 2021 Teagasc National Farm Survey showed an increase of 6,400 jobs in our agri-food sector between 2019 and 2021.
Certainly, this is an exciting time for our country, for our custodians of our land, and for our researchers and innovators in this space,” she said.
In line with the future of farming focus, diversification is certain to be one of the key themes of the conference, according to Walsh, and one that is very close to her heart. “I want to deliver access to funding for female farmers who are already working in the sector and offering farm relief. The latest development in TAMS grants for women is just one step to a more equal sector.”
Undoubtedly, there is a very real need for farm relief workers in Ireland and Walsh believes there are important opportunities to be explored in this regard. “I think we can work with ATU and other colleges in the region, as well as with agriculture science students in our secondary schools, to break the barriers and promote the role of relief workers to support the agri sector,” she reasoned.
Support for farmers on a wider level is also a necessity and the Fine Gael MEP plans to take the opportunity to speak with attendees about the work she is doing around mental health and how it relates to the sector. “A recent UCD study found that over 50% of farmers are experiencing depression. That’s a really worrying statistic and the stressors shared as part of this study were policies, the lack of understanding of a farm, the future of farming, and the work-life balance. We must work with our farmers and their families and put the necessary support and structures in place to reverse these figures,” she added.