This past summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Ireland and Italy. While on my trip, I went sightseeing, took pictures of landmarks, but most importantly I observed examples of European agriculture. My trip to Ireland with with the Kansas State University Agriculture faculty-led program brought me to the Irish towns of Cork, Dublin, and Galway. The first example of Irish agriculture that we encountered was on a dairy farm run by Jon, Jim, and Edmund Power. The Power brothers have lived on that farm their entire lives and are working on expanding from 300 to 500 head of cattle in the next few years. We learned from Jim how the recent lift on the European Union milk quota would affect his operation immensely. There was formerly a restriction on how much milk a farmer could sell and after that amount the farm would be taxed for each gallon over. With the quota lifted, farmers are now able to sell as much milk as they can produce. We also visited a farm owned by the Tobin family who gave us a home cooked meal and showed us true Irish hospitality almost exceeding the kindness I’ve experienced here in Kansas (which is hard to do!)
One experience that really made us all consider how the world views the U.S. was the Ballymaloe Cookery School. It was an organic farm that was absolutely stunning complete with a lake, greenhouses, and a small shed covered in different shells. Unfortunately, our tour turned sour when the owner of the farm told us how United States agriculture was killing the environment because we, “only feed crops to animals and keep none for ourselves.” We quickly informed him how wrong this was, but it gave us some insight on how people from other countries view our agriculture processes and how we need to spend the facts about how we farm to dispel the myths that surround American agriculture.
Our last two agriculture experiences were on the Aran Islands where we went to a goat farm and saw how cheese was made from goats milk. We we’re able to take a quick break from our bike tour and cuddle baby goats! We also stopped at a tillage farm that grew six different crops at the same time: broccoli, wheat, two kinds of barley, beans, and maize. Overall it was an eye-opening trip that was filled with so many superb experiences that I couldn’t be more thankful for. It enabled me to better understand how I can continue advocating for agriculture and how to connect with other so we can spread the truth.