Director-General  QU Dongyu

Transforming agrifood systems by listening to farmers’ voices


Dublin/Rome – During his visit this week to Ireland, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu had the opportunity to meet Joe Hayden, at his and his brother Michael’s dairy farm in Tinahely, County Wicklow.

The Hayden’s family farm is home to their 210-cow dairy herd, which produces 1.2 million litres of milk for a famous Irish cream liqueur brand. The farm is a member of Origin Green, Ireland’s food and drink sustainability programme.

Joe Hayden showed the Director-General around the farm’s vast grassland, explained the unique quality of the Irish grass and showcased the modern rotary milking parlour that allows the whole herd to be milked by one person in less than one hour. All milk is produced using a grass-based system with a focus on the continuous improvement of soil fertility, milk and grass quality, and herd genetics.

Modern farming techniques

Best practices in modern farming techniques have brought the Hayden’s family-run farm to both national and international prominence and the FAO Director-General and his delegation were provided with detailed information including on cattle breeding and husbandry, grassland management, production costs, food traceability. Joe Hayden explained that environmental integrity is top priority and perfectly preserved and maintained on the farm where five hectares of fen bog, natural woodland and wild meadow are protected under Irish and European Union law to safeguard the large and unique variety of flora and fauna which exists there.

A long game

 Joe Hayden underlined that the farm’s scope “is a long game” and not just a 10-year project. “We are looking way ahead for future generations,” to ensure sustainability, he said.

The Director-General thanked Joe Hayden for “the excellent lessons we can learn from you, the quality of life and the best practices you offer for us and FAO on how to transform agrifood systems in the world,” adding: “You showed us what is real responsibility, and real concrete action on the ground. Your voice should be heard.”

Qu stressed how a digital FAO acts as a platform for Members to share experiences and best practices with other Members on transforming agrifood systems so that they become MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.

The FAO delegation also visited Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board and the Food Research Centre Teagasc.  Teagasc is the national entity that provides integrated research, advisory and training services to Ireland’s agrifood industry and rural communities. It is the leading organization in the fields of agrifood research in Ireland, undertaking innovative research in animal and grassland; crops, environment and land use; food; and rural economy and development.