Attendees at Agri Aware’s annual farm open day told the Irish Farmers Journal that they are now “more aware of how heavy labour” farming is and that farming “is not a holiday”.

Hubert Graja from Dublin was among the 2,500 attendees at the open day Stephen Byrne’s farm in Kildare on Saturday.

“I am more aware of how heavy labour it is to bring food to the table,” he said. “It would be nice if there were more events like this, to help people understand that [working on a farm] is not a holiday, that it is very mechanised. There is a lot of research and people take care with animals and they have a good life.”

Attendees get to see the Byrnes’ herd of cows up close in the yard before evening milking. \ Finbarr O’Rourke

Shearing contractor Karol Devaney in action during one of his shearing demos.

Graja was impressed at how farmers and scientists are working together to produce food while also looking after the environment.

“I think there should be more of this, more awareness,” he concluded.

Aaron Sheppard, also from Dublin, told the Irish Farmers Journal that he had only ever been on a pet farm before.

Juebei Xiao, Hubert Graja and Áine Graja-Xiao at the open day. \ Finbarr O’Rourke

He admitted he does not think about where his food comes from when he sees it in a shop, but that day out on the Byrne family’s dairy farm changed his view.

“It does really open your eyes to the hard work that goes into it. You don’t really see it when you live in the city.”

Bridging the gap

A separate schools’ day held last Friday gave 450 mainly Dublin-based primary school students the opportunity to learn about food production.

Face painting and getting to learn about many of the Irish livestock production systems through Agri Aware’s mobile farm were a popular feature for the young attendees.\ Finbarr O’Rourke

The aim of the annual event is to bridge the gap between rural and urban dwellers and to give people from non-farming backgrounds the chance to see a working farm that is focused on food production in an environmentally sustainable way.

Over 3,000 attended the event over the two days, with many having never set foot on a working farm before.

A self-guided tour of the farm featured stands explaining soil health and fertility, water quality, trees, plants and grass types and information on measures that are being taken to reduce emissions on farms.

Host farmer of Agri Aware open farm event Stephen Byrne talking to students about his herd of cows at the schools day on Friday 14 June. \ Finbarr O’Rourke

Sheep shearing demonstrations proved popular for young and old, as did milking demonstrations.

Face-painting and a mini pet farm kept the youngsters occupied.

Increasingly urbanised

Minister Martin Heydon pointed out that the distance is growing between urban and rural: “With every generation that passes in Ireland, we are becoming that bit more urbanised and removed from our country cousins. We have to work even harder at communicating with those not from a farming background the importance of where your food comes from and how proud we should be of our food production system.”

Host farmer Stephen Byrne said that he was “delighted to see so many people come and see the work that is put into producing milk, that there is a farm and a farmer behind it”.

Stephen Byrne speaking during the Byrne family panel discussion. \ Finbarr O’Rourke

Commenting on the success of the day, Marcus O’Halloran, executive director of Agri Aware, said: “It is a great event to build agricultural literacy among a non-agricultural audience. Days like today, where we can get the public to engage with the practices that we are preaching and witness that first hand, are really important for the sector.”

The event was sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, the National Dairy Council, the Irish Farmers’ Association and Tirlán.