December saw the first leg of an exciting exchange and partnership between Macra Na Feirme and Groene Kring. The exchange, supported by the Erasmus+ scheme, enabled the two organisations to meet, discuss and explore a variety of rural issues, with a particular emphasis on innovative and entrepreneurial ideas for the rural young adults with whom both organisations work.
The first part of the exchange was the annual prize winners’ trip and took place all around Belgium, based mostly out of the Leuven region on the outskirts of Brussels, but travelling throughout Flanders. Around 40 Macra members set off in the early hours from Dublin airport and received a warm welcome when arriving into Leuven. The days were then filled with a wide variety of farm visits and cultural tours, visiting farms from both ends of the spectrum including a dairy farm with over 5000 cattle using robotic milking facilities, a biofuel plant & self-sufficient restaurant, to a small family farm with 200 cattle.
One of the most innovative ideas the group experienced was a dairy farm that had repurposed itself as an adventure / team building facility, whilst remaining as a working dairy herd. The group enjoyed a fantastic and laughter fuelled day of team building activities alongside local Groene Kring members – throwing sacks of hay around in the barns of the farm, much to the amoosment(!) of the onlooking cows! This day proved a great inspiration to a number of Macra members and we will surely see some of the ideas brought back to Ireland and put into action throughout the Macra county events.
On a cultural high the group took a day trip to the beautiful city of Bruges for a real change of pace and to see many rural enterprises selling at the renowned Christmas markets.
To end the trip, the group was privileged to have a personal tour inside the EU parliament including a talk detailing the challenges and achievements of the Irish MEP’s in Europe. As the MEP’s were in Strasbourg during the trip, the group was able to gain access into the hemisphere and see first-hand where the heated debates take place. We are very thankful to Mairead McGuinness and her staff team for helping to arrange this experience for our prize winners.
The second part of the exchange will happen January as Macra welcomes the group from Groene Kring and provides tours of a variety of farm enterprises throughout the island of Ireland, including an overnight stay with our 2019 Young Farmer of the Year winner, Liam Hanrahan. We look forward to providing them with a warm Irish welcome and showcasing some of the best we can offer in both rural enterprise and hospitality.