A young farmer who has been named as the Grassland Farmer of the Year says the much-maligned sector is actively tackling environmental problems and seeking solutions.
Bryan Daniels from Co Kilkenny says many farmers are working towards creating sustainability within their farm gate.
He says that he is always striving to improve every aspect of his farm at Raheenarran in Kilmoganny and that there are many positives to share with the wider community.
“We are not the problem that some people perceive we are. We carry so many of the solutions coming with us in terms of the low carbon footprint on our milk and beef we produce but also what we can do in terms of rebuilding the environment’s biodiversity, and improving water quality,” he says.
“Most of the [criticism] of farmers is unwarranted. It comes from a context taken out of hand. It is case of correcting the mistruths and showing the good that we are doing.”
Mr Daniels, who attended the awards ceremony at Teagasc in Fermoy, Co Cork with his wife, Gail, and their son, Eli, said he was surprised to win. "I didn't expect it but am pleased. The work on the farm has been ongoing for generations. I am lucky in that my father gave me control of the farm 19 years ago when I was in night college. We have worked on trying to improve the farm, to bring on the sustainability of it."
The father of three is a former Teagasc young farmer of the year winner and is considered one of the bright lights of his generation.
After one year at Kildalton Agricultural College, Mr Daniels came back to the farm at Kilmoganny in 2001. He believes that grassland is Ireland’s natural advantage and advocates the optimisation of grass production and utilisation.
The Grassland Farmer of the Year awards have an overall prize fund of €30,000 funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Now in its third year, it rewards farmers who are achieving high levels of grass utilisation on their farms. All three winners to date have also previously won the young farmer of the year award.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed said the judges had visited all 13 of the nominated farms "seeing the best in action".
He said he wanted the overall winner to use the award as an opportunity to show other farmers what can be done.
“We are at a time in agriculture where we need champions, we need ambassadors. We need people to go as leaders in their own community,” he said.
“Don’t go home and bask in the glory in your front room. Take it to your farming neighbours and friends. Take it to the broader agricultural sector.
“Agriculture needs people who will stand up and say ‘We are not the problem. We are a big part of the solution’.”
Mr Creed said the “world has to be fed” and sustainability was vital to the future. “Grassland management is a critical ingredient in profitable farming. The challenge for all of us is to maximise the efficiencies and to do it in a more sustainable way.”