3 questions for… Pippa Hackett

3 questions for… Pippa Hackett

Organic farmer and Irish Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Portrait Pippa Hackett

1. At the end of 2022, you said that the interest in organic farming was greater than ever before. How did the sector develop since then? And what do you think are the two most important levers for more organic farming?

In Ireland, the organic farming sector has developed significantly in recent years. In 2022, we had about 2,000 Irish farmers farming organically. Today we have 5,0001. That replicates about 5 % of the land area. That’s low by European comparisons, but we started from a really low base. So, there is good momentum now, farmers are really engaging with it.

As for levers, I think finances are always important, but it is not the only thing. I think what is also important is advice. We have our own advisory service in Ireland that provides organic advice to farmers. But also, a knowledge transfer, sort of peer-to-peer. Farmers seem to learn very well from other farmers. We put on lots of farm walks for farmers to go and see how an organic farm works and ask questions: How did you get over this problem? What do you do when your feed is running low? Farmers tend to respond really well to that. And then, developing the markets is all-important, too.

2. Is the Irish government on the right track in terms of climate protection?

I think we are doing quite well. Although it is a challenge – I think it's a challenge across all of Europe. Farmers can get frustrated that the goal posts always seem to be moving and we see that frustration coming out across Europe. But we have signed up to a Climate Act in Ireland. There are legal obligations on every sector of the economy.

Then the work I do in the Department of Agriculture: putting in place the scheme like organic farming, supporting farmers to sow different types of grasses that do not need so much fertiliser and supporting them with the much-needed advice to help them decarbonize their farms.

So, we are making strides. Our emissions profile in agriculture is coming down. Of course we have more to do. We'll always have more to do. But I think acknowledging that we are making improvements and supporting farmers on that journey is really important. And to acknowledge the work they are doing to help us on that.

3. You have been committed to increasing the share of organic farming in Ireland for years. What is your purpose?

I am an organic farmer myself, a beef and sheep farmer. I have been organic for 10 years in Ireland. And I see firsthand how it has improved our quality of life, how it has improved our farmland. And I can share that knowledge with other farmers who are maybe wondering: should they or shouldn't they shift to organic farming. I think the demand is there, certainly in the European sense, for organic food. I think Ireland is very much an agricultural nation. We're good at agriculture and we can be really good at organic food production.

1The interview was conducted at BIOFACH in Nuremberg in February 2024.


Anna Frede

Anna Frede

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