Budapest Study Session 2022
Robert Lally – Ireland
This year I was selected to represent Macra Na Feirme for a week long study session at the European youth centre in Budapest, Hungary.
I am a full time beef farmer working with my grandfather Tommy Diggins in Claremorris Mayo, and I’m also the Chairman of Mayo Macra. I was gobsmacked to be one of the two successful candidates. To keep the gender balance there was one male and one female selected. I was the successful male candidate and Amanda O’Sullivan was the successful female candidate. She is a primary school teacher in Cork and an amazing person who does a lot for Macra.
We arrived on the Sunday and we travelled to the youth centre which is where we stayed for the full week. We were provided with three square meals a day in a wonderful canteen and very friendly staff. There we met a few people from different young farmer organisations across Europe that also arrived on the Sunday. We hit the hay to prepare for what would be one of the most amazing weeks of my life.
On the first day we began with getting to know one another from all the different countries. We got involved in a few different games so that we could remember each other’s names and we also began to discuss what we knew about human rights (or didn’t in my case). We had a healthy discussion focusing on food as a human right, especially focusing on availability, adequacy, quality and access. That evening we became acquainted with the city by visiting some memorials and the local Parliament.
On the Tuesday we looked at healthy food choices, sustainable food, our understanding of sustainability, water quality, the nitrogen cycle, greenhouse gas emissions and much more. Each group was given a big sheet of paper to document all of our revelations. That evening we also attended a boat tour down the river, seeing all of the famous sites from the comfort of the water.
On the Wednesday we had some very interesting thought-provoking discussions about food chains and their impacts on the economy, the environment, farmers and the businesses involved.
One of the most wonderful touches to the whole event was the Wednesday evening – an international evening where we were all encouraged to bring some samples of food and drinks from our countries to give each nation an idea of our local cuisine. From Ireland we brought Tayto crisps, Clonakilty black pudding/white pudding, Kimberly biscuits to name but a few. We thoroughly enjoyed this, learning about the other cultures in and around our beautiful continent.
On Thursday we had to bring a recipe from home and we worked in small groups. We were encouraged to think about alternative food chains and sourcing the best/climate friendly ingredients for our dishes. This was very interesting from a cultural perspective, learning all about how important food is in everyone’s culture and how unwilling a lot of people are to compromise when it comes to national dishes. We had a very interesting vegan speaker who sparked quite interesting debate. The majority of us being farmers thoroughly enjoyed hearing the other side of the story. Not that I agree with it, but everybody has the right to enjoy whatever diet they like and what works for them, and their morals, preferences and pocket! That evening we enjoyed a water fountain show on Margaret Island!
Day five was the most interesting day for me. I thoroughly enjoyed our guest speaker who did a lobbying and advocacy workshop. We worked together as a team after an icebreaker of the bold infamous musical chairs, I feel this got everybody’s creative juices flowing and really provoked a healthy debate. Lobbying is probably one of the most important tasks Macra Na Feirme do on behalf of young farmers and rural individuals; to advocate for our voice, for our needs and for our future. I learned so much that Friday.
We were let off after lunch to finally see a bit of the city in the daylight. I went to the thermal baths and it was an amazing experience with water that was warm from natural underground Springs – quite mind-boggling if you ask me!
We arrived back for a farewell barbecue and every single one of us had one of the best weeks ever. I can safely say we learnt so much about each other, each country, culture and more.
I strongly encourage anyone and everyone given an opportunity like this to grasp it with both hands, apply for the interviews get involved and learn. Most importantly, enjoy every step of the way! I want to thank Macra so much for allowing me to represent young Irish farmers – I hope I have done you proud!
This blog is part of the Together Thursdays project, co funded by the European Union.