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From The Ground Up – Re-connecting the Consumer and the Farmer

By Shane Fitzgerald, NDC Farmer Ambassador

Concerns around climate change – solidified by the recent data from the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) – are driving public debate these days and, rightly, we’re acknowledging that all of us will have to do our bit if we are to meet the stated goal of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

What worries me is that these concerns have shone a tightly-focused spotlight on dairy farming. To me, as a farmer, it seems that there’s a real possibility that our social licence to produce – the general agreement around our right to be farming and producing dairy products that bring €5.2bn into Ireland every year and support one in 40 Irish jobs – might be taken away.

Rightly or wrongly, it sometimes feels as if the things that we’re doing to make Irish dairy more sustainable and to mitigate our climate impacts simply pass people by. In amongst the reactions to the Irish government’s climate action bill and the subsequent findings from the IPCC, was a lot of anti-dairy sentiment – and little understanding of what farmers like me are doing and what we can do in the future.

This is why I was happy to be a part of the latest media campaign from the National Dairy Council, entitled ‘From the Ground Up’ (you can view the campaign here). The campaign sets out to build some pride in Irish dairy, to get people thinking about what’s behind the products they love and to bring them closer to the land.

It shows what the farming community is doing for the land and for the environment. It shows how we’re using technology to make farming practices less impactful and more sustainable. It shows the benefits of pasture-based dairy farming and how Ireland’s perfectly suited to it. It shows the importance of biodiversity and of stewarding the land for the future.

It aims to bridge the gap between those who consume dairy products and we who produce them, encouraging pride, greater understanding and a level of civic responsibility for our national dairy industry. If that pride isn’t there – that sense of ownership and involvement – then decisions about dairy’s future will be driven not by people who care, but by pressure groups and the disconnected.”

This new campaign puts our side of the story across. I hope that when people see it, they’ll spare a bit of time to think about what it says, and why it’s so important – not just to us as farmers, but to our country as a whole.

From The Ground Up is a series of 90’, 30’ and 20’ spots featuring Irish dairy farmers explaining how they take care of the environment, employ sustainable farming practices – and also why they do it – and how dairy farming is central to Ireland’s national heritage. The campaign will be shown on TV and in cinemas, beginning September 6, throughout September, October and November and will be aired on September 11 during the highlights of the All-Ireland football final.