With the Ploughing Championships in full swing and following the success of The Tullamore Show on agriculture, there is much focus right now on Irish agriculture. But who are the movers and shakers? There are many ways in which Irish farmers are proving resilient through hard economic and environmental times. Some are helping advance their own business and communities, whether through innovation or originality. Here are five ways they’re shaking up the Irish farming scene.
Farmer Of The Year
Carlow tillage farmer Kevin Nolan won this year’s Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year competition. He describes his farm as a progressive farming operation. He was commended for his use of social media to promote the farm and his use of GPS precision auto-guided machinery. Yes people, that means transformers work on the farm while he sleeps.
Hydroponic farming is a method of growing fruit and vegetables all year round in Ireland which lessens our carbon footprint by reducing imports. Cork beef farmer Steve Collins uses hydroponically grown barley seeds as fodder for his cattle. His device uses growing trays that produces thick mats of foliage through the winter. The benefit of it being a climatically controlled system means that he is no longer reliant on the unpredictable Irish weather.
Andrew Douglas and his Urban Farm project in Dublin utilises urban space with recycled materials for growing fruit and vegetables. As well as keeping their fingers green the project also run workshops on urban growing techniques, keeping fowl, fish and bees with an emphasis on self-sufficiency and sustainability. Urban Farm like to suggest new ways of using our waste or ‘throw-aways’ to aid farming One such project is Mushroom City. Who knew the coffee grounds that would ordinarily be thrown away by Ireland’s growing army of coffee shops, are very useful for growing mushrooms!
Many Irish farm families are opening up their rustic gates to the EU funded SoFab project. This social project works on the idea of providing work and activities, as a form of social support service, to people with disabilities, mental health problems or social issues. Many find working with animals and out in nature therapeutic and farmers get some help on the land as well as training in social and health support services.
With so much forward thinking it can be easy to forget where we came from. Many Irish farmers are going to extra mile to rear native Irish breeds that are in danger of nearing extinction. Encouraged by an environmental scheme, the breeds the farmers are focusing on include Connemara ponies, Irish Draught horses, Kerry Cattle and the Irish Dexter cow. The food company Murphy’s Ice Cream are supporting these efforts by only using the dairy products from Kerry Cattle. A great excuse to go out and get an ice-cream right now.