The surge in interest in organic farming was evident as over 1,000 farmers turned out on Wednesday 28 September to the joint Teagasc, Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia national organic farm walk hosted by John Purcell on his large beef farm outside Golden in Co Tipperary.

Speaking at the event Jack Nolan of the Department of Agriculture said the biggest barrier to entering organic farming was a mindset change.

“The Department is backing organics with funding now and into the future, Teagasc are appointing six new organic advisers as well as two new specialists and Bord Bia are currently in the process of recruiting an organic sector manager.”

The ambition in the current plan for Government is to grow the area of land farmed organically from just 2% currently to 7.5% by 2027. This sees the need for 45,000ha or around 1,000 farmers to convert annually in the next five years.

Organic farming isn’t a niche or a fad, it will grow and develop in the coming years. The sky is the limit

On potential markets, Joe Burke from Bord Bia said that despite the cost of living pressure on consumers, organic buyers are not trading down to the same extent as conventional meat purchasers. The demand for organic produce is also greater in countries such as Germany where as much as 15% to 20% of the food basket may be organic produce compared to just 1% to 2% in the home market.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConologue said: “Organic farming can be a profitable grass-based enterprise while eliminating the need for inputs like fertiliser and feed.

“Organic farming isn’t a niche or a fad, it will grow and develop in the coming years. The sky is the limit.”

The Purcells run a 500ac store to beef farm with a further 450ac rented in and finish 1,000 cattle per annum with heifers slaughtered as two years of age at 330kg carcase, while bullocks are killed at 30 months on average at 360kg carcase weight. Full open day report in next week’s Irish Farmers Journal.