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The Great Gardening Weekend Podcast

sodshow, garden podcast

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.

Listen in MP3 format – or- As always you can rss the podcasts via iTunes or you can subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed last weeks garden podcast ?

On the blog:

My weekend in the garden:

Unusual Green News:

Your Thoughts on This Email:

Hi Peter, great site – engaging blog, great ideas – But I can’t quite figure out who is your market? Is it the organic farmer, is it someone with a city garden, county councils ….???

I replied….

A Chara Cormac,

thanks very much my friend. Always good to get feedback on the blog. Being honest – I’m not sure there is one strict ‘audience type’ that I was looking to ‘target’. It’s more just my ramblings [?] thoughts and so fort of what I come across as an enthusiast of the great outdoors. There are also points in there where I believe discussion is always good [ie. organic] and thats another side to it.

Essentially I make or work with plants/ gardens/ am a horticulturalist by qualification. The reality is though that I dont play golf or live a lavish lifestyle and this you might say keeps me more than occupied. By way of sponsorship – if it comes it comes that’ll be nice but it is by no means the reason I started writing. To be honest, when I left the farmers journal I just needed to keep my fingers occupied and this came up. I guess it just grew from there.

That said the stats show the people like it – so I guess I’ll just keep plugging away until Bill Gates decides to buy me out 😉

Cormac replied:

Cheers Peter, I suppose my comment was more an observation on why you’re not trying to more specifically capitalise on the interesting nature of your blog by upping the sales/ business content of your website (not the blog – which would obviously turn people off). Turning the stats into business. On the other hand your passionate approach is admirable – I’m sure such passion has greater rewards

I replied:

*smiles I wouldn’t mind Cormac to be honest I just and it is something that crossed my mind. Thats said I’m not sure I know how. Also I’m not sure Mrs D would agree with the passion has greater rewards ! 😉

And finally Cormac replied:

well I would have thought putting up some past projects on the website side would be a start – or outlining what you’re best at! (you can’t be good at everything!;-) With a dublin address you have a fine big market. You could be the Duncan of horticulture! Anyhow – i’ll leave you at it! there was you having a good time til I started nagging you like the Mrs.

Personally I think Cormac sounds like a decent cup of coffee kind of guy…. certainly made me think and for the better. Thanks Cormac. Sincerely. Is that the Duncan I think he’s talking about…. 😉

This made me smile:

It appears some-one really does read this blog. Really made me smile Thanks Orla 😀

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also via @orlamcdermott – this little how to take it easy video 😀

Beautiful Cow Competition

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Saturday 10th July saw the North Dublin Dairy show 2010 get under way. The highlight is of course, what can only be described as the beautiful cow competition.

I met with 22 year old farmer Michael Connell Jnr to find out more.

Earlier, I had met Jim Scully, secretary of The Dublin Milk Producers. Listening to him and Michael, I realise dairy farming in this country has a serious message and is in serious trouble.

This day however, was one for congratulations, trophies and rosettes, It was also a day for meeting and greeting young and old who ensure that somehow or udder [ 😉 ] milk ends up on our tables.

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Take a look at the just how serious the judging business of prize cows really is. Like Michael said, it can add value. Consider also that one gentleman told me that he had recently paid over €2000 for a 3 week old baby cow. Father Ted you say ? 😉

Cows aside, because of the people I met, it really was an amazing day. One that I was honoured to be invited to. Thank you so much to the Dublin Milk Producers and 3 generations of The Connell Family for being such fine hosts. Also to Jim Scully and Michael Jnr for taking the time to talk to me.

View More Images of The North Dublin Dairy Show 2010

Teaching Organic ?

An organic gardening programme is set to be rolled out by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board across Irish schools. The problem is that it can’t really be organic. It can however be about growing and considering the earth and our actions. This is a programme that will include my child and yours and I personally am not sure I wish for her to be thought gardening under an organic label based on what I have unearthed.
The question further remains as to whether organic is actually better than ‘ordinary’ or home grown vegetables. The problem is the variance in beliefs of what organic actually is, the fact that legislation makes ordinary foods extremely safe to eat and the fact one can actually use chemicals and non-organic seed, yet still be labelled organic.
The Bord Bia slogan ‘organic – good for nature good for you’ has been ruled against in its using by the ASAI [advertising standards authority of Ireland]. However, the EU has a new ‘organic farming‘ slogan – ‘good for nature good for you’.
Ciaran Cuffe of The Green Party disagrees in commentary below.
update: I recorded this podcast Monday evening 12th July – as a result of the comments and responses to this post.

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The following email hit my inbox today:

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BORD BIA GOES ORGANIC IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS

MAY 2010

VIEW PROJECT: VIDEO FILES COMING SOON

Gorilla has just completed all audio post production for Bord Bia’s newly launched organic gardens DVD for primary schools across Ireland.

The DVD is an educational package that shows how pupils and teachers alike can convert their school grounds into organic gardens to grow their own vegetables! The DVD also explains some of the main benefits of eating organic food over processed food and moreover provides excellent opportunities for pupils to bring their learning outside of the classroom! The programme was shot over a 2-year period and includes 3 case studies in Dublin, Kildare and Ardee in Co Louth.

Then I did a bit of reading and found this from page 8 of the teaching resource that comes with the DVD: www.bordbia.ie/aboutgardening/organicgardening/Documents/teachers_resources.pdf

Realise that synthetic fertilisers and pesticides are harmful and should be avoided if possible.

also on pg. 9:

Teachers Notes: Organic horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, weed, and disease control, and heritage species preservation.

It is a form of agriculture which excludes the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, plant growth regulators, and genetically modified organisms. Organic gardeners rely on crop rotation, green manure, crop residue and compost to maintain soil productivity and control pests. It is an ideal way to teach children to respect the environment and introduce them and their families to healthy eating.

also the entire document is headed with the logo:

Organic: good for nature, good for you

Looks like someone is trying to convince the wee nippers that if something is organic its great!….it is of course as you know a little more complex than that (e.g. organic food imports etc, etc).

That aside this email had come in 2 days previous:

Bord Bia have just changed all their organic food logos on their website to a leaf, gone are the “organic : good for nature, good for you” logos…….maybe you could ask why the change?

But, you see this email had come two weeks ago:

was sent this…..looks like the misleading Bord Bia campaign cost 1 Million euro half of which was paid by the Irish public…….hardly money well spent

February 2009
Report by Simon Wright, Organic and Fair
…Lorcan Bourke of Bord Bia in Ireland explained how the the Irish Department of Agriculture funded half the campaign, allowing match-funding to obtained from the EU and giving a total budget of 1 million Euros. After consumer research the slogan chosen was ‘ Good For Nature, Good For You’ (see the campaign at www.bordbia.ie/aboutfood/campaigns/Pages/NationalOrganicWeek.aspx ).

from: http://www.organictradeboard.co.uk/news/
(bottom of page)

I had also received an email on May 18th. It was signed by the ASAI and noted that:

Subject: RE: Organic Food Claims

Bord Bia have agreed to withdraw the claim.

But as can be seen from the first page of Bord Bia’s schools education programme [above] it still exists.

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I don’t hold issue with anyone who goes green or encourages others to do so, especially at such a young age. I applaud it. But like I have said previous – sometimes ‘organic’ has it’s pros and cons.

I felt/ feel the ‘organic issues raised in this superb shop‘ are still incorrect. Not balanced…. call it what you like – but not right when it seems all things organic are groovy [?].

I have spoke on the logic of growing your own before. That versus the fact that 99.9% [not a researched figure] of farmers do not use fertilisers on their potatoes, although they may not be certified organic…

The point that I make is that encouraging children is fine as long as logic applies. In context, I would rather my child chop an old [rotten looking] sprouting potato in half and plant it in the garden [using no compost] than drive to the garden centre to buy seed potato [possibly imported – from another county even] and organic compost – for organics sake.

In which case, I’d prefer my child, in primary school be thought ‘logic green gardening’ as versus ‘organic’ or not to be thought this subject.

To get a gist of what people believe organic is, I asked the following question[s] on twitter this evening: what do you believe organic means? The responses were as follows:

  • Grown naturally without man made pesticides & fertilisers
  • Grown from non-GM seeds, without use of chemical (man-made) pesticides, fertilizers etc. My take anyway.
  • fairly broadly i take it to mean non gm, and free from artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
  • organic is grown without herbicides, pesticides, fungicides etc. or if meat – no growth hormones on organic feed
  • Grown sustainable without pesticides or herbicides in soil which is free of both substances at least for 8 years. No artificial fertilizer!
  • organic: not reared with, or on, land where artificial fertilisers are used.

I then asked: which is better. Locally produced/ grown veg or organic ? The reponses were as follows:

  • 1. Both. 2. Local. 3. Organic.
  • that depends on how you define better, organics flown half way round the world not great ecologically but Irish bananas prolly not great 🙂
  • locally produced
  • I prioritise fresh produce, which more often than not means local as the time betw farm & shop is shorter, but believe organic is best.

To that I note these forms where one can apply to be able use certain chemicals – yet still be labelled organic.

http://iofga.org/certification-and-members/forms/

The numbers of those granted such derogation are not published. The derogations that can be applied for can include the use of non-organic seed and copper sulphate [for example].

In search of a definition of organic…. I went [back] to the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association Website

What Is Organic Food?

Organic food carrying the IOFGA logo has been produced to the highest standards. It is produced according to organic farming principles which are committed to working in harmony with nature rather than against nature. Organic farming works within the natural confines of the farming eco-system to provide you with great tasting food!

In practice organic farming;

  • Avoids the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides
  • Requires the highest standards of animal welfare
  • Does not permit the use of genetically modified organisms
  • Uses less fossil fuel energy per calorie of food produced
  • Protects our biodiversity by maintaining suitable habitats for plants, animals and wildlife
  • Encourages people to buy their food locally and in season

When you see the IOFGA logo on organic food you can guarantee that this product has been inspected and approved to meet the organic standards. Organic farming in Ireland is the one system of farming which is fully certified and regulated and we in IOFGA are proud to see so many high quality products carry our logo.

But the reality is one can apply to use chemicals…. right ? I would also point to the 10 reasons IOFGA give as to why one should buy organic food. I’ll skip straight to point 10

10. Good for nature, Good for you

Which I assume they also are not allowed to say [?]. I also still do not know exactly by definition/ legislation from either sites what organic is.

It seems there is vagueness in what organic actually is [exactly] and more-so to that people’s understanding of. The argument as to whether it’s better to balance the books [so to speak] is [pardon the pun] simply more food for thought. ie. whether it’s better to shop local as versus organic and not necessarily local. There is also a point where from a marketing perspective that organic labelling does sell [see above compost image]. Even the farmers markets in Ireland have their flaws as I discussed in my last post. The question I guess still remains of what methodology is better and also from an educational point the information that is being thought.

Maybe Green Party minister Trevor Sargeant has the right idea….? But then he is wearing a GIY t-shirt. Grow it yourself that is. Not organic. Big difference.

UPDATE: 7th July 2010

The above podcast replaces this one.

Also this Organic leaflet 2010 Food Safety Authority of Ireland seems logic enough. Although still lacking definitions in my opinon.

Bord Bia and the IOFGA have been informed of this post.

UPDATE: 9th July 2010

Got this from Ciaran Cuffe of The Green Party

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/files/eu-policy/logo/FAQ_logo_en.pdf

which is headed with this logo and slogan [see below]. I’m confused – Bord Bia cannot use the same slogan as the EU can a similar slogan… On second look, the EU have used the word ‘farming’ ? Cheeky 😉

I have emailed this to the ASAI [advertising standards authority of Ireland]

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Brendan Smith, GM Food, Michael Creed and Teagasc

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I’m not one for politcians being really honest. I understand politics. I just don’t trust too many of them. But this is one that you may enjoy. Sort of. Because it’s not until you get to the link at bottom of the page and see just how long Brendan Smith Minister, Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food takes to answer with anything of relevance to GM food, the question we all know he is trying his utmost aboility to avoid.

Reminds me of a football team trying to play out the last 10 minutes of a game in the oppositions half, right down by the corner flag… just to get a draw.

It summised quite well in this Michael Creed quote:

That is what makes a mockery of the Parliament.

First this statement from Michael Creeds website:

WEDNESDAY 27 Jan 10

Govt attempt to gag Teagasc raised in Dáil

Fine Gael Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Spokesperson Michael Creed TD has accused the Govt of refusing to answer questions about a reported reprimand sent to Teagasc on the subject of Ireland’s GM-free policy. Speaking during Dáil Questions today (Wednesday), Deputy Creed has demanded that the Government publish any such letter sent to the State’s agri-food research body.

“The FF/Green Government likes to bang on ad nauseum about the ‘smart’ economy, but reports of this letter suggest it would rather its expert bodies were dumb.

“It appears a letter was sent from the Department of Agriculture criticising Teagasc researchers involved in a study on GM feed. This is a sinister development. What scientific research will the Agriculture Ministry seek to stifle next if it treads on Green toes? Which scientific body will be subjected to a Government gag next if its research happens to undermine the programme for government? The Minister has, in a most disingenuous fashion, refused to answer direct questions from me today when he should undertake to publish this letter in full.

“The study undertaken by Teagasc researchers concerned the impact of a GM feed ban on the Irish pig industry. The results suggest that replacing GM feed with non-GM feed would increase the production cost per pig by between €2.51 and €3.93 and cost the industry up to €13.8 million annually. The conclusion to be drawn is that the Irish pig industry would not survive in the GM-free environment envisaged in the programme for government and foisted upon us by the Greens’ presence at the cabinet table.

“Instead of spending his time writing to criticise the experts at his disposal the Minister would do better to heed the warnings in this study and embrace scientific evidence to avoid the destruction of the pig meat sector.”

And with thanks to the amazing people at Kildare Street it is possible to read the transcripts of what exactly ws said. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and time it on your watch as to how long it actually takes Brendan Smith TD to answer the question…..click this link:  Brendan Smith Michael Creed debate

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The Irish [green] Budget 2010

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You may read this and suggest that I’ve skipped so many facts and figures to suit… but, I should stick to the programme that is all things green and Peter.

Also one should note that this isn’t an economics weblog [as much as I love the subject] and also that a much greater insight into that can be found over at The Irish Election site amongst the many I read regularly.

With that in mind may I just wish Deidre de Burca a bon voyage and a sincere good riddance. From a really green perspective I wonder what, if anything, was actually achieved apart from sitting down and collecting a pay cheque. That said, it seems a pay rise is on the way, plus expenses…. but of course.

…a very nice €120k salary at a time when salaries here are being cut all round her? I suppose a green politician’s got to do what a green politician’s got a do…

With regards to the 2010 budget itself….. I’ve split this into these sections:

  • carbon taxing
  • forestry
  • vehicles
  • notes from the book of estimates
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I tried....

carbon taxing:

The economic and social implications of climate change are immense and it is the responsibility of Governments everywhere to change behaviour to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

The most effective way is to put a price on carbon. This will encourage innovation by incentivising companies to bring low carbon products and services to the market.

Changing behaviour takes time but a start has to be made. Today I am introducing a carbon tax equivalent to €15 per tonne. The detail is set out in the Summary of Budget Measures. The tax will apply to petrol and diesel from tonight. Increases to home heating oils and gas will apply from next May.

The application of the tax to coal and commercial peat will be subject to a commencement order to allow a robust mechanism to be put in place to counter the sourcing of coal and peat from Northern Ireland where lower environmental standards apply. A vouched fuel allowance scheme will be developed to offset the increases for low income families dependant on such fuels.

The yield from the Carbon Tax will be used to boost energy efficiency, to support rural transport and to alleviate fuel poverty. The Carbon Tax will also allow us to maintain or reduce payroll taxes.

Carbon taxes will be a feature of economies across the world in the coming years. Today’s announcement sends a positive signal to those gathered in Copenhagen, working for an ambitious agreement on global climate change, about Ireland’s capacity to show leadership.

The tax changes I am introducing today reflect my belief that tax can make some contribution to the reduction of the deficit, and will make a larger contribution in later years. But as we know from our recent history, we cannot rely solely on taxing our way out of our difficulties.

With regard to forestry:

Agriculture is an important component of our economy and this Government has not hesitated to offer this crucial sector support where it was most needed. We responded rapidly to the pig dioxin crisis last year, where we provided some €200 million to save that industry and the jobs within it. We have made a large investment in agricultural infrastructure through the Farm Waste Management Scheme. We remain committed to supporting an environmentally sustainable agriculture sector and are in discussions with the European Commission with a view to introducing a new five year agri-environmental scheme. I have agreed to provide €50 million from within the existing allocation to support this scheme.

I am also providing more than €121 million for Forestry and Bio-energy. This includes a capital provision of €116 million to plant a further 7,000 hectares of trees next year. This demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to this vital sector as set out in the Renewed Programme.

This may sound like a lot of money but one should also note that

  • The current programme sets to plant 20,000 hectares of forest p.a.
  • Only 10% of Ireland is forested compared to the EU average of 36%
  • This should reach 17% by 2035
  • It will take 80 years to reach the EU average at current planting rates. This will reduce that by 4 a little over months.

Improving the energy efficiency of our cars

The Government wants to encourage the increased use of environmentally friendly electric cars and the development of new technology in this field. To that end, the VRT exemption for electric vehicles and the VRT reliefs of up to €2,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are being extended by two years until 31 December 2012. We will also provide support to offset the initial battery costs for such cars. This will help in fulfilling our ambitious goals to reduce transport related emissions.

I am also introducing a car scrappage scheme, to run from 1 January until 31 December 2010. VRT relief of up to €1,500 per new car purchased will be made available under the scheme, where a car of 10 years or older is scrapped under certain conditions. The scheme will have the environmental benefit of removing some older, potentially less safe and polluting vehicles from the road. Details of the scheme are provided in the Summary of Budget Measures.

Others notes of interest come from the Book of Estimates

The Department of Agriculture and food takes an overall drop of €247,937

  • With reference to programme expenditure: the development of agriculture and food budget will drop by 27% from €372,060 to €270,808
  • forestry and bioenergy will increase by 2% from €119,604 to €121,845
  • rural environment will decrease by 11% from €369,129 to €330,000
  • An Bord Bia grant in aid for general expenses will decrease by 4% from 28,221 to 27,230

and from carbon

  • Under the transport estimates [roads] carbon reduction measures will increase from €10,000 to €25,000
  • Under the Department of Environment the carbon fund drops 34% from €50,000 to €33,223 and Climate Change Commitments are noted down 32% from €2,200 to €1,500. Under heritage The National Parks and Wildlife Service takes a reduction of 8% from €34,848 to €32,048. Overall the Dept takes a hit of €345,021

Peter Donegan MI Hort
telephone: 01-8078712
twitter.com/DoneganGardens
info[at]DoneganLandscaping[dot]com

*note: to date no politician has answered the above call. Dan Boyle Of The Greens did say he would talk to me…. but I’ve heard nothing as yet. If this changes I will let you know here.

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