This year’s Climate Camp was held in Manorhamilton from 9th to 13th August and was attended by over 300 activists from all over the country, including GEAI members. During the many interesting talks that took place there, important topics for the planet such as agroforestry and the need of communities to have access to organic, chemical-free and local food were tackled and discussed.

GEAI actively took part to the event and in particular our director Bridget Murphy (Bridgi, who is also part of Talamh Beo) spoke about farming her family land and the transition it went through from sheep on uplands to seeds, bees and agroforestry. She also brought attention on the policy changes that are needed to recognise diverse land uses as agricultural activities, since at the moment you are only classified as a farmer if you do tillage, livestock, horticulture or dairy. She discussed the critical need to produce and save local, organic seeds for multispecies sward (grazing fields), vegetables and trees, emphasising that all local areas should have local tree nurseries with local hardy, resilient stock.

James Gilmartin (farmer, schoolteacher and member of Talamh Beo) recently converted to organic by following regenerative practices, which consist in rotating different types of crops so to limit pest infestations and to enrichen the soil through a more diverse diet. His discussion then expanded on how farmers can contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation and a healthy ecosystem through the way they farm.

Land regeneration was also tackled by John Duffy, who spoke about being an engineer who returned from working abroad to his family farm in Donegal and planted agroforestry. He spoke about the role trees can play in land regeneration, healthy soils and climate action.

In respect to cattle farming, John Brennan (NOTS, Leitrim organic farmers co-op and member of Talamh Beo) spoke about organic cattle. Specifically, he farms a rare breed – Irish moiled cow – on his family farm which has been registered organic since 1998. Obviously, as organic, no chemical sprays and fertilisers are used, so the outcome is healthier food with lower costs and lower GHG footprint.

From left to right: John Brennan, John Duffy, James Gilmartin, Tommy Earley and Bridgi Murphy.

Lastly, Tommy Earley  (a Roscommon legend though frequently claimed by Leitrim and a member of Leitrim organic farmers co-op and Talamh Beo participant in the Soil EIP) spoke about his farming practices – a mixed farm with organic certification since 1990’s. He explained how learning about soil and soil biodiversity and how to feed the livestock in his soils contributes to healthy land, food, clean water and carbon sequestration.

There was a great chat with the audience where the need for a local food policy was discussed as well as how healthy, nutrient dense, chemical free organic food should be the right of every citizen rather than it being a luxury item for high end markets.