Eamonn McDonagh and his wife Geraldine are a purely organic pair, farming their 30 acres and range of animals with the most natural of methods.
Located in Kilmaine, Co. Mayo, they’ve been farming organically since they can remember. However, it’s only in the last two years that they’ve been certified. Much like many farmers, it’s often the case that you’ll be working organically out of personal preference without going through the official process.
Although you might enjoy being able to farm the way you like without strict regulations, you won’t get the benefits that recognition as ‘certified organic’ can bring; so we urge any farmers who are working organically to take the plunge and get recognised by a group like IOFGA when you can.
On Eamonn and Geraldine’s 30-acre farm, 10 acres are growing trees, while other parts are growing an array of delicious vegetables. With a mix of about 20 different varieties, including carrots, spuds, turnips, there’s no spraying going on here.
“We grow a good mix: onions, spuds; a bit of everything. About 15 to 20 different vegetables,” explains Eamonn.
Organic farming was never a conscious decision or huge upheaval, it seems: “We were always just into that sort of farming. I suppose we were against using chemicals and all that. I don’t find it difficult though; some people see organic as very hard work, and I suppose it would be if you were coming from conventional farming.”
“It’s easy to go out and spray everything, so if you’re new to the organic way, it can be seen as hard. I don’t find the regulations overly strict, though,” explains Eamonn. Many farmers see the effort of converting as a lot of hassle, but it seems Eamonn and Geraldine have found it to be straightforward.
All of the couple’s tillage is done with their Clydesdale horses, with no modern ploughing in sight. The beautiful Clydesdale breed is now iconic; synonymous with traditional Irish agriculture.
“I love working with the horses; we use them for all our tillage. I like everything about organic farming.”
The family has four cows that they hand-milk. Eamonn tells That’s Farming that they’re a mix of Friesian with Hereford and other breeds. Of course, all of the cows are reared organically, just like the family’s crops.
The pair live off their produce but sell off some of it locally:
“We have a box scheme, where we sell some of our veg, and even our milk, to local customers around the Kilmaine area. Our customers are within a 15 mile radius.”
This smaller-scale farming method seems to work for Geraldine and Eamonn. Whereas most people aim to expand in the future, they’re pretty happy with their set-up:
“We’re not really planning on changing things up; I think people make mistakes by always trying to get bigger. Keeping things to smaller acres, a smaller customer base; that seems to work for us.
“When it comes to the positives of organic, Teagasc and others always seem to promote the idea of the export market. I think a more local focus would be better; producing locally and selling locally.”
Home-grown and home-sold is the name of the game for this pair, whose purely organic farm is keeping the traditional farming methods alive and kicking.
If you’re an organic farmer and you have a story to tell, get in contact and you might be featured on That’s Farming in the future!