Horticulture Action Group


A horticulture action group has been set up. Brilliant news, I thought. That said I have tried as best as possible here to simply report that there is a new [horticultural related] group and what it will/ or not do for horticulture in Ireland. Have a read and leave a comment below if you wish.

Minister Cuffe Announces Composition of Horticulture Action Group

…thats what the headline on the Department of Agriculture and Minister Cuffe’s website. Just in case the website changes, here is the official blurb.

The Minister of State for Horticulture, Ciarán Cuffe TD, has announced the establishment of a Horticulture Action Group to oversee the implementation of the relevant recommendations relating to Horticulture in the Food Harvest 2020 Report.

Membership of the Group, representing the various sectors of the horticulture industry, comprises:

Mr Kieran Dunne, Nursery Stock producer
Ms Caroline Keeling, Wholesaler and Protected Crop producer
Mr John Hogan, Field Vegetable producer
Ms Lavinia Walsh, Mushroom producer
Mr Maurice Whelton, Potato producer
Mr Mike Neary, An Bord Bia
Mr Jim O’Mahony, Teagasc and
Mr Gabriel Roe, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

The remit of the Group is to focus in specific terms on the implementation of the particular recommendations in the 2020 Report relating to Horticulture and to also consider other general farm and agriculture industry level recommendations. The Group will report back to the High Level Implementation Group, which has been set up under the overall chairmanship of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Brendan Smith TD.

The Minister stated that: “the Horticultural industry has considerable potential to develop but is also facing significant challenges and that he looked forward to the Group progressing the implementation of the 2020 Food Harvest Report”.

Minister Cuffe will inaugurate the first meeting of the Group on 2 December 2010.

Date Released: 30 November 2010

The Irish Examiner pretty much ran with whats above but the The Irish Times Agriculture Correspondent Sean Mac Connell ran with the title Agri-food group to implement export report and certainly explains it a lot better.

It says horticulture in the title. To quote myself from a previous post

horticulture n the art or science of cultivating gardens

source: collins english dictionary paperback edition

There is a nursery plant grower on this panel. Also there, of relevance to amenity horticulture is Mike Neary.

Ciaran Cuffe is also there. His own website goes with this…

The Green Party has the fresh thinking to provide and nurture the green jobs of the future. We’re implementing the solutions in energy, planning and transport that will bring us through these challenging times.

Brendan Smith, was asked about this in The Oireachtas on December 1st. He’s the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I’ve linked to it [were it says oirecahtas on december 1st if you wish to read it all but for now….

The first paragraph is pure jibberish – for the sole reason that is reads as such

…I have established, and am chairing, the High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) bringing together the key actors in the state sector to ensure an integrated focused state implementation effort. The role of this central implementation group is to progress the development of the sector and to direct the activities of any ancillary group it may establish. Following its inaugural meeting on 16 September, a further meeting of the HLIC was held on 16 November, with its next meeting scheduled for 12 January.

as do paragraphs 2 & 3. Paragraph 4 goes as such….

…..I recently launched a research call of €10 million under the three public good research programmes operated by my Department. This call focused on the strategy’s ‘Smart’, ‘Green’‘Growth’ objectives and will build on existing research capability and support the development of collaborative research networks. A further initiative in this area, is the establishment of an Agri Research Expert Advisory Group which will facilitate greater input and resources from the agriculture industry into the design and structure of primary research. In addition, at the last meeting of the HLIC, the CEOs from a number of state bodies agreed to collaborate to provide the HLIC with a focused paper on developing and promoting innovation in the overall sector.

skips paragraph…. mentions Teagasc…. skips paragraph……

A Horticulture Action Group has already been established to activate the relevant recommendations of Food Harvest 2020 and report back to the HLIC on progress in the new year. As part of their analytical work in developing the sustainability agenda for the Irish food sector, Bord Bia and Teagasc in conjunction with the Carbon Trust are undertaking an extensive pilot audit of 200 farms to demonstrate the sustainability of the beef sector. This initiative will provide consumer feedback on the values which could underpin a general approach differentiating our food and drink product. The HLIC has already endorsed these scoping actions and are being kept informed of developments on an ongoing basis.

These are examples of actions already undertaken and further progress on these and all recommendations will be monitored and activated at the next meeting of the HLIC on 12 January.

I emailed Ciaran [december 7th 2010] with the information above and also specifically asked the following

  • Who is the second/ higher/ upper level that the advisory committee  report to.
  • Why is there no-one from the landscaping sector on this panel ?
  • What are the proposals for the promotion of the amenity sector ieg landscaping./ gardening ?

I got the following response [december 13th 2010]

Peter, A Chara,

Thank you for your email.

The Horticulture Action Group has been initiated to oversee implementation of the recommendations for horticulture, including amenity horticulture, contained in the Food Harvest 2020. As with amenity horticulture, there are also sub-sectors within the other horticulture sectors. However, in order to expedite the output of the Horticulture Action Group within a tight time frame, the membership of the group contains one industry representative for each sector with one representative from this department, Bord Bia and Teagasc.

The output of the Horticulture Action Group once complete is passed to the Higher Level Implementation Group chaired by Minister Smith. The Higher Level Implementation Group oversees the entire Food Harvest 2020 Implementation process.

Yours sincerely,
Ciarán Cuffe
Minister of State
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Well that’s all my questions answered…


The Sodcast – Episode 17

sodshow, garden podcast

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

Listen to The Sodcast in MP3 – or subscribe/ listen to the podcast in iTunes. Alternatively, subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed Episode 16 of the garden podcast ?

First Up:


Back to life….


This Week On The Blog:

Links For The Podcast:

Images For The Podcast:

This Weeks Oddities:

Fellow hen fanatic Simon Kenny send me this email

Hi Peter

I don’t have a photo of bark mulch on the plastic but do have decorative pebbles on plastic in my own garden. It’s basically the same principle. The soil is blocked from sunlight and weeds push up the plastic around the edges. Attached is a photo which I took this would be great to hear what your views are on the use of the plastic stuff, and how you would go about flower bed fabrication


Also these little trinkets 😉

I asked if anyone had a happy Garden story for me….? You replied… and I had to tell you all to stop!
  • @rauldore: Yes – my garden is happy : I haven’t had a BBq in ages 😀
  • @jkeyes: Iggle Piggle, Upsey Daisy and Makka Pakka.
  • @maryrose: I planted crocus today… at least they will bring a smile to my face come January
  • @orlamcdermott: 10 gizillion pretty red crab apples from a small tree made into 25 jars of jam 🙂
  • @maryrose: oh I couldn’t … sure I’d have to get my hair done..!!!
  • @powersflowers: Funny Hissingfirst story for you from @ArabellaSock : It’ll make you laugh. I promise.
  • @knetstop our strawberry is still blooming and having fruit. Does that count?
  • @primaryposition: one easter sunday i awoke early to find little paw prints leading out our garden and down the street path. Convinced it was the Easter Bunny, I took off after them like an excited blood hound. about 5 houses down the road i found a poor little tortoise trapped in a hole in a neighbours garden. He was alive and we kept him for a week before giving him to a zoo 🙂
  • @EWgardens: 10 years next year since we began to revive 400+ year old gardens abandoned for 50 years. My other halfs grandfather died having pulled house down and not knowing he had an heir. He would be delighted to meet his great grandchildren and visitors in his revived garden. How’s that?
  • @dervlam: Funny looking mushrooms growing on my back garden lawn!
  • @ianbrunswick: Worked @ Chicago botanic gardens & stopped a snapper turtle getting run over. He tried to bite my hand off. Some thanks!

And Finally:

I found the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra via Christian Carey and the gentleman [and lover of the great outdoors] that is Mr Jonathan Grimes

The Great Gardening Weekend Podcast

sodshow, garden podcast

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, 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 😀


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

Irish Milk ?

Irish farmers at present get just under 29 cents per litre of milk. Astonishingly, around 25% of all milk consumed in south of Ireland is imported. Consider also that there used to be 40 milk producers in Dublin and that there are now just 19. I personally am becoming quite concerned that the milk my daughter will drink, as decided by the supermarkets, may fairly soon not even be Irish.

I met with Jim Scully, secretary of The Dublin Milk Producers to find out why ?

Being honest, when efforts must resort to road signage in order to get the required attention, you know somethings not right… right ?


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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.


The following email hit my inbox today:



MAY 2010


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:

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 ).

(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.


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.

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

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]