Oliver Moore: Skillet delivers top organic courses

November is often a time when some farmers and growers can get around to some of the tasks they have put off. With the harvest in, thoughts can turn to other areas.
Oliver Moore: Skillet delivers top organic courses

NOTS — the national organic training skillnets — runs numerous courses throughout the year. Though targeted at the organic producer, these can be done by both organic and conventional farmers. And many of the offerings suit both anyway.

November sees an increased number of courses, including bovine scanning, the business of catering, organic production principles, future growers, cheese making and snail farming.

The bovine scanning course is a seven day course on pregnancy scanning for cows which actually runs every fortnight in Co Laois. It covers: techniques of ultrasonography in the cow; ovarian structures in the cow uterine structures in the cow; ultrasonography of the bovine foetus; sex determination in the bovine foetus.

Also in Laois, a course called the business of catering runs for four days over two weeks in November. This comprehensive course focuses on trends, menus, management, systems, mobile catering, suppliers, kit, tea/coffee, staff, legal and waste. It runs from 9am to 5pm November 9, 10, 23, 24.

The organic production principles course is compulsory for anyone intending to join the Organic Farming Scheme. This 35-hour course in Drumshanbo runs on the weekend of November 11-12, and on November 25-26.

Future Growers is a one day seminar in the Hodson Bay hotel Athlone on November 21. This will feature green manures in protective cropping; encouraging biodiversity in protective cropping; soils; hygiene regulations for growers and their effects; case studies and the establishment of a small grower’s network.

A cheese making course is offered with expert cheese maker Helen Finnegan of Knockdrinna fame. This three-day course “covers all areas involved in farmhouse cheese making from the milk stage right through to packaging and presentation for the market of your final cheese product” the group states. “The course is based in an existing cheese making facility over the three day period, trainees will make lactic curd cheese, a soft mould ripened cheese and a semi-hard pressed cheese.”

This runs November 18, 19, 25 in Stoneyford, Kilkenny.

And finally, snail farming. This unusual offering is likely to be a well attended two-day conference. Indeed 140 delegates attended a conference last October, which saw international experts from France, Italy, Germany and Greece present. There is a global shortage of snails, with an estimated 100,000 tonne shortfall per annum.

NOTS states: “Presentations will be made by a number of Irish snail farmers and international expert Panagiota Vlachou on all aspects of the industry, including different methods of production, domestic and international markets, viability and profitability of snail farming, difficulties that may be encountered and the main reasons for failure.”

Irish-based speakers include Catherine and Richard Cocollos, Catherine of Celtic Escargot in Kinvara, Galway; Stephan De Wit, founder of Marphan Escargot in Co Wexford. Stephan is a newly established snail farmer and advocate of the snail farming methods used by Panagiota Vlachou; Eva Milka, founder of Ireland’s first commercial snail farm Gaelic Escargot in Garryhill, County Carlow.

Panagiota Vlachou is the founder and CEO of Fereikos in Greece. Since 2007, Fereikos has established 182 outdoor snail farms in Greece, Germany and Cyprus.

There seems to be a market opening for snail farming. NOTS also points out that 80% of France’s snail consumption comes from imports; in Italy, the figure is 60%. The French and Italian markets are worth around €300m annually.

The two-day snail farming event runs November 14-15.

Each event is individually priced. For more info, go to nots.ie or ring 071 96 40688.

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