We are located on our own farm at Athgarrett in the greed fields of Co. Kildare and have lived and farmed here for four generations. We grow a range of crops including wheat, barley, oats, beans, oilseed rape, fodder beet and over-winter cover crops.
We aim to farm in a sustainable manner through careful planning and judicious use of inputs and aim to maximise cultural weed and disease control through measures such as diverse crop rotations, varietal resistance, drilling date, depth and seed rate management, cambridge rolling etc.
In recent years we have embarked on a programme to improve soil health and regularly return farmyard manure to our land whilst break crops such as oilseed rape and bean haulm are chopped and returned to the land. We have moved to non- inversion tillage to improve our timeliness of operations and also to reduce our diesel usage, this has the added benefit of doing less harm to soil-borne microflora and microfauna which should improve soil structure and hence water holding capacity and drainage.
Similarly we now grow over winter cover crops which mop up nutrients and prevent capping and erosion over the winter months as well as structuring the soil and providing habitat for wildlife. Depending on the season, these cover crops can be grazed with sheep which eat the cover crop and return it to the land in their dung. As well as providing an additional revenue stream, this nutrient cycling should leave nutrients more available in subsequent crops.
We have recently also experimented with 'five minute fallows' sown immediately post harvest and incorporated into the soil ahead of the next winter sown crop with the aim of outcompeting weeds and capturing carbon and sequestering it to the soil when it is incorporated.
Last year we established our first pollinator margin consisting mainly of Phacelia, Sunflower and Vetch and we were delighted with the results, it was literally buzzing with life all summer and long into the autumn, providing nectar and habitat for myriad creatures. On a personal level those margins were one of the most satisfying things we did on the farm last year! We are hoping to grow more of these margins in the future and consequently hope to improve pollination and yield in our oilseed rape and bean crops.
Once harvested our crops are either sold to local merchants or kept on farm and carefully dried and stored to be rolled and sold to local farmers as feed for farm animals over the winter.
Thus we can provide a sustainable source of grain for our own malt...