Farmers told, 'stay positive' as they were in the health business
Members of Fermanagh Grassland Club (from left) Desmond O'Donnell, Kesh, Seamus McCaffrey, Tempo and Rodney Noble, Enniskillen, in discussion with Professor Patrick Wall, guest speaker at Fermanagh Grassland Club.
A positive message for all those involved in agriculture was relayed to members of Fermanagh Grassland Club earlier this month by Professor Patrick Wall, one of the leading authorities on public health and food safety.
As Associate Professor of Public Health in University College Dublin, where he teaches and researches food borne diseases, lifestyle related diseases and consumer behaviour he was the first Chief Executive of the Irish Food Safety Authority and chaired the European FSA.
Professor Wall is qualified in both veterinary and human medicine and took the theme of "Challenges for Farmers Responding to Consumer Demands " for his talk to a large number of farmers at the meeting in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen.
In an entertaining speaking style, Professor Wall reminded farmers that their most important asset was their health and it was important to stay positive despite the Irish trend to be negative about situations.
"Always look at life with the glass half full," he told them.
He said while they could not change the past, they could change the future if they stayed positive..
"Are you a captain or captive of your story?" he asked.
When he asked farmers what they would say to someone if they were asked what their business was, would they simply say a farmer? He said farmers were involved in many facets of life including animal genetics, animal nutrition, animal health, animal welfare, food safety, human nutrition and human health. In other words they were involved in influencing human health. they were simply, in the health business!
He says there is a disconnect between consumers and modern agriculture. With the power of supermarkets and the global influence of social media, primary producers such as farmers could not afford food scares or create consumer anxiety. Shoddy operators can wreck the situation for everyone.
He viewed quality assurance schemes as helping to reduce business risk.
He says looking at food production globally, Northern Ireland family farms should be commanding a premium price for their products as they were unique in many ways. In terms of beef and lamb production, grass fed livestock was a healthy product and producers should be getting a premium price for it.
Turning to dairy farmers, Professor Wall said farmers in Ireland had among the best disease status in Europe.
Looking to the future, he saw great opportunities for agricultural products. Whey, once a by-product, was now an important nutritional ingredient to supplement muscle in older people.
"You need to be a champion of your own product," he told Grassland Club members.
Professor Wall's address was well received. Farmers would remember him for chairing the steering group which removed the over 30 months cull and he was also closely involved with the Irish pork dioxin crisis
He is now part of a group setting up a high genetic merit dairy herd on the UCD farm.
The next meeting on February 14 is the Club dinner and awards night with the speaker, Eamon Kelly on the subject; "Having the Bottle to Diversify!"
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 26 Jan 12