STUDENTS at the Dromcollogher Organic College, An tIonad Glas, have been urged to use their skills to help transform the way Irish people think about food.
Speaking at the college’s recent graduation night Minister of State with responsibility for Horticulture, Shane McEntee, reminded students that they will be taking over 20 years of college tradition with them as they start out as independent growers and producers.
“My job is to encourage you to use the knowledge and expertise that you have gained in this college to avail of the market opportunities that clearly exist and, by doing so, maximise your potential income.”
On the night, graduates received certificates and diplomas up to FETAC level six, and joined the growing collection of An tIonad Glas graduates who have carved successful careers for themselves as organic farmers and food producers.
Sinead Neiland, teacher at the college and former head of the Irish Organic Growers Association, said that the impact that graduates have in local communities has a “multiplier effect”, which not only reduces Ireland’s food imports but helps create local employment.
Eimear Brophy, adult education officer with the County Limerick VEC, said that An tIonad Glas offers a valuable option to people seeking to return to education and develop new skills.
“There is so much to learn from nature that can sustain us on the lifelong learning journey”, she said, adding that the each year the college sets new, higher standards in food production.
Jim McNamara, one of the college’s founders, called for further supports to help young graduates become established as independent growers. He noted that the current review of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is an opportunity to encourage organic agriculture.
Marian Harnett, speaking on behalf of students, said that she had learned new skills and had benefited from the variety of enriching experiences that organic learning can bring.