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Serving: East

Agriculture still ‘ploughs’ on the Emerald Isle

Close up of black-face mountain sheep
IRISH NOSE COUNT: The Emerald Isle has 4.75 million humans and 5.2 million sheep.
Compared to Ireland, Northeast farmers are blessed with far greater land resources. But Irish urbanites love their farmers.

Like most of you, I’m blessed to be able to take a two-week vacation — with the work done in advance, of course. So in September, my wife and I and a neighboring couple wandered Ireland’s wandering rural roads. As you might guess, I was most interested in how farmers fare there.

While environmental and water quality regulations haven’t seemed to be as tough on Irish farmers as they are here, the environment surely is. As one older farmer put it: “It’s hard for younger people nowadays to make a living. It’s a tough life, and many of our young farmers have gone abroad.”

I knew Ireland had a lot of sheep. But once we escaped Dublin, we quickly learned there are more sheep than people. Fortunately for humans, they can’t vote. Sheep are the only farm animals that can safely tread on rocky, stone-fenced pastures and steep mountainsides — terrain that would make even New England farmers cringe. But that’s why lamb and Irish stew are plentiful and delicious.

The Irish fiercely values their food independence, in part due to the 1840s' Great Potato Famine that’s deeply etched into the country's history. Today’s urban populace knows how hard farmers work to earn a living. They see it every day on the roads. Ag tractors and livestock trailers are commonplace, even on high-speed highways.

Ag ‘ploughs’ on
While plowing is falling out of fashion here in America, “ploughing” (with that spelling) has grown into something more popular on the Emerald Isle. Had we stayed a few days longer, I could have visited the National Ploughing Championships — a festival sprawling across 700 acres (just 180 acres for ploughing),with 1,700 exhibitors spanning agriculture, culinary, music and art sectors, and attracting nearly 300,000 people. That’s huge for this small country.

A hefty newsstand copy of the Irish Farmers Journal touting the event weighed in at 140 pages, not including its 60-page Irish Country Living section. Bottom line: Ireland embraces its farmers.

See 10 high points of what we saw on the Emerald Isle at “You’ve got to be tough to farm the Emerald Isle” on our website.

Bite-sized morsel
Don't worry about what other people think about you. They don't do it very often or for very long.

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Might I have ‘reefer madness’?

Couldn’t resist sharing this expected feedback to last month’s column/blog on our website. Here goes:

“It’s rare to read such a load of BS in one blog post. So I was driven to correct the author on his inaccurate and regressive logic. I know all about hemp, having published the Industrial Hemp Journal from 1994 to 1999, and have heard so much of this reefer madness before.

“Yes, hemp is a weed. It grows almost anywhere. That’s part of its value. It grows heartily and cleans up soil as it goes. If it grows in a ditch, fine. Get over it.

“Hemp’s THC levels can rise. Yikes! If a plant’s THC rises from 0.3% to 0.4%, guess what? It still won’t get you high. There’s no need to be paranoid about percentages.

“Hemp is a gateway to marijuana? What has the author been smoking? The reality is actually the reverse. Eight states have fully legalized recreational cannabis; 12 states have medicinal and decriminalization laws; 13 states plus Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized psychoactive medicinal use; 13 have legalized non-psychoactive medicinal cannabis use; and one, plus the Virgin Islands, have decriminalized possession laws. Only three states have full prohibition! It seems to me that cannabis is a gateway to hemp.

“The author [that be me] fears that within 10 years (more like now), hemp and marijuana will be impossible to police and that ‘there won’t be any need to import the latter from south of the border.’ One wonders if the author has a financial stake south of the border.”

Editor’s note: So you know, I have nothing south of the border. The hemp journalist (who wouldn’t be identified) doesn’t understand that Mother Nature can revert plant species to their old genetics within a few generations.

TAGS: Dairy Crops
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