European Rally 2015

INTRODUCTION TO THE EUROPEAN RALLY

The European Rally is an annual week-long event that brings together up to 100 people from different countries to share ideas on different issues relevant to young persons. This year the rally took place in Lambach, Austria, hosted by the Landjugend (young farmers) of that country and the theme was “Hand in Hand, Create your Land”, the aim of which was to motivate young people to action in developing rural areas. Macra na Feirme was represented by Paddy Delaney, Mary Anne Murphy and Niamh Mooney. Throughout the week they took part in workshops and excursions designed around keeping rural areas vibrant and relevant in an ever-changing world.

INTRODUCTION TO RURAL YOUTH EUROPE

Rural Youth Europe is a nongovernmental organisation set up in 1957 to represent and create links between rural youth organisations throughout Europe.  Through it various member organisations Rural Youth Europe represents half a million young people. The current aims of the organisation are to foster links between countries, challenge young people to became capable leaders and develop their own skillsets, lobby at European level on their behalf and to promote rural development.

TRAVEL AND ARRIVAL

To get to Lambach we flew from Dublin to Frankfurt and then got a connecting flight to Linz airport. At Linz airport we got a bus to the local train station where we were met by the Rally team and taken to the venue in Lambach. On arrival in Lambach we were given a tour of the venue, presented with name cards which showed our names and country and we were shown to our rooms. All rooms had 4 participants picked at random from different countries.

OPENING CEREMONY

The opening ceremony took place on the Sunday morning of the rally in a local monastery just minutes from the venue. All participants dressed in traditional clothes from their own counties for this event. The rally was officially opened by the prep team and all participants were invited to come forward with their countries flag and were welcomed to the rally.

WORKSHOPS

A large part of our week was made up of participating in workshops which were designed by the prep team and revolved around the theme of developing our own countryside. Some were directly related to informing and learning about methods to upgrade the vibrancy of rural areas while others were aimed at improving teamwork and integration from the rally participants as well as identifying leaders and exploring different ways to accomplish agreed goals. Overall the workshops helped us to define ideas of what we should be taking home with us from the week.

EXCURSIONS

Our best chances to get out and about to see Austria came through our excursions and trips to local areas of interest. On Sunday most of the group visited a local farm. Not only did we get to see some of the countryside and a have tour of the farm, but we also got to experience some genuine local hospitality. Austrians really pride themselves on the quality of their homes and offerings. Frank and his family went to extraordinary effort to accommodate over 50 people for an afternoon. Throughout the rest of the week we visited various farms and enterprises as well as the local amenities and sites. The highlight of the week for this had to be our trip to the Austrian Alps and town of Hallstadt. The scenery and natural beauty was nothing short of breath taking, having a snowball fight whilst wearing shorts and t shirts was also a new one on us.

ENTERTAINMENT

Each night the rally team provided onsite entertainment in a marquee at the venue. These events included acquaintance activities on the Saturday night, an Austrian evening on the Sunday night where all participants were asked to wear red and white. On Monday night we had an international buffet. Here all countries set up a table with food and drinks from their own country. On Tuesday we visited a traditional Austrian tavern and this was followed by and Après Ski party. Wednesday we met our host families and had dinner with them before departing for their homes. Thursday was European evening where all countries performed a song or dance in their local groups. For this we worked through group one which is fondly known as the five nations including Macra and the UK organisations. The week ended with a closing ceremony banquet which took place in the venue on the Friday night. This officially closed what certainly was an unforgettable week.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The RYE general assembly is the organisations AGM. Representatives from the various organisations meet to decide on the future of RYE and what changes should be made to further its interests. Paddy Delaney, as team leader represented Macra at the assembly which was held in Linz. During the morning session a number of workshops were held to discuss some new ideas that could see new junior and training events progress in the future. Organisations also held local meetings where they discussed some of the opportunities and problems that have been facing them recently. In the afternoon the assembly was held. Some notable events from this included the adoption of a new young farmer organisation from Norway as a member organisation to RYE. The assembly was addressed by a member of the Austrian parliament who spoke about the useful work that RYE completes. A number of new representatives were also elected to the board of Rural Youth Europe including Paddy who will be representing group one (Ireland and the UK).

OBSERVATIONS ABOUT AUSTRIA

On first entering the country we noticed that it was very clean. There was absolutely no sign of any rubbish or litter anywhere, whether in the country or towns.  People were extremely friendly. Younger people generally had a very good grasp of English while the older generations sometimes required translators.  It was also noted that the healthcare system available in Austria is quick, efficient and not overly expensive however we won’t say how or who found that out. One final point is that the weather was glorious and even unseasonably warm for that part of Europe reaching highs of 40 degrees. We felt it was an accomplishment that not one member of the Irish delegation got sunburnt although that couldn’t be said for the Welsh.

AGRICULTURE IN AUSTRIA

Agriculture in Austria bears some similarities to Ireland. Average farm sizes are small to medium (approx. 70 acres) and there are differences between regions in the primary types of farming practiced. In upper Austria where the rally took place the primary systems of farming were tillage and pigs. There was also a far greater level of organic farms operating in the region also with up to one in five farms claiming organic status. 

CONCLUSION

The European Rally experience is one that is very special. The whole week flew by and the feeling that we were part of something extremely special continued to grow and’ sadly reached a peak as the closing ceremony reached an end. Not only is the European Rally a week to learn, to make new friends, to experience many cultures or to share things about your own; the Rally is most simply an institution of its own. Its history goes back over half a century and each and every time its participants have brought something new to it, but brought much more home from it, not least the memories. We would encourage anybody who has any interest in attending or is offered the opportunity to grab it with both hands particularly as it is taking place up the road in Antrim next year being hosted by the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster. Finally we would like to say how honoured and proud we were to act as ambassadors for Macra and represent the organisation in Austria.

Is Féidir linn.

Paddy Delaney, Mary Anne Murphy and Niamh Mooney