Why Organics? An Taisce’s Legacy4LIFE ‘Advancing Farm to Fork’ project aims to inform Irish producers and consumers of the opportunities presented by the EU ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, under the ‘Green New Deal’. This considers alternatives to current intensive agricultural practices, to deliver a more sustainable food system for Europe. A central objective of our project is to identify barriers and promote the uptake of organic farming, to help foster a sustainable food system, which benefits both society and the environment. Why Organic Farming? Ireland has a number of commitments to deliver on organic farming. The ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’ sets a target for 25% of EU land to be farmed organically by 2030. Ireland's CAP Strategic Plan has an objective of 7.5% of agricultural area to be farmed organically by 2027. While this falls below the EU goal, it is still highly ambitious as only 2% of Irish agricultural land is currently under organic production. Nevertheless, Ireland is striving to increase its proportion of organic land. Furthermore, a transition to organic farming will help progress to targets for reduced pesticide and chemical fertiliser use, with multiple other benefits including improved soil fertility, resilience to climate change and food sovereignty. Organic farming has an important role to play in facilitating a just transition, rewarding farmers for taking care of their environment and providing support for the production of premium produce. Many consumers are now willing to pay for organic food, evidenced by increased growth in organic sales over the last decade. Locally produced organic food also has a key role to play in increasing market resilience. The importance of this farming approach is reflected in recent developments to help grow the sector in Ireland. Many of the barriers previously faced by farmers in switching from conventional to organic farming, have been addressed by recent provisions in the Organic Farming Scheme. This includes increased payments per hectare and improved subsidies for those starting the scheme, as well as infrastructural grants, through the new Organic Capital Investment Scheme. Additional organic advisors have also been appointed to Ireland's state agricultural body, Teagasc, and training on organic farming has been provided to members of the Agricultural Consultants Association . Furthermore, Bord Bia will have a full time manager for the organic sector in the new year. The first MSc programme in Organic and Biological Agriculture has been launched in WIT now SETU, which will help to increase the level of knowledge and understanding of soil health and organic farming practises for farmers, advisors and policy-makers. Organic farming has agricultural, ecological and climate benefits; minimising nitrogen inputs, preventing pesticide use, incorporating nature-based solutions, improving carbon sequestration potential, and enhancing biodiversity. A switch to a predominantly organic agricultural model would help Ireland to meet numerous climate and environmental targets, while providing for a more resilient future, whilst keeping farmers on the land. Ireland is a net importer of grain, which can pose a threat to national food security, a position made clear in light of external shocks affecting grain supply, resulting from the war in Ukraine. Increased uptake of organic farming would reduce Ireland's high dependency on imported fruits, vegetables, grains and oilseeds that could, instead, be grown at home. Substituting these imports with cereals, fruit, and vegetables grown organically in Ireland would improve national food security, enhance biodiversity, and reduce GHG emissions. Increasing the supply of local organic produce will also improve public health, providing the Irish population access to fresh, nutritious, sustainable food. Acknowledging the societal, economic, and environmental benefits identified, the Legacy4LIFE project believes that organic farming practices should be a key driver of Ireland's sustainable food programme and Ireland's National Food Vision for 2030. This approach would bring Ireland in line with the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy objectives and place Ireland in a pivotal position internationally, in terms of sustainable food systems. Advancing Farm to Fork Goals The Legacy4LIFE ‘Farm to Fork’ team hopes to support increased ambition and uptake of organic farming nationally. This will be achieved by: Collaborating with all stakeholders, including farmers, farming organisations, processors and sellers, researchers, educators, policy experts and department officials. Conducting a survey of farmers to identify perceptions of organic farming, and barriers to transition, to inform a report for policymakers. Providing educational resources, including a booklet for farmers based on examples of best practice from existing organic farms in Ireland, and an education booklet for children about organic farming. Our ‘Farm to Fork’ team has already engaged with a host of relevant stakeholders through a consultation process and have attended and provided talks at a number of agricultural events, outreach will continue through the project. The identification of any remaining barriers that exist for farmers and the representation of farmers' voices and concerns through this project, will be a key objective to assist a smooth transition from Ireland's current intensive farming model toward a more sustainable agricultural model, that is farmer-led. To learn more about the Legacy4LIFE ‘Advancing Farm to Fork’ Project, please visit the Legacy4LIFE webpage on the An Taisce website here.