In this week’s Farmer Focus, That’s Farming, speaks to Brendan Guinan of Fior Bhia Farm, a beef, poultry and pig farmer from Laois, about regenerative farming.
Brendan Guinan and family of Fior Bhia Farm have taken on a mission of “proving small natural family farming has a place in Irish agriculture both economically and environmentally”.
They are transforming 26-acres of “forgotten land” in Portlaoise, County Laois, into a truly free-range welfare-friendly regenerative farm. According to Guinan, a beef, poultry and pig farmer, this farming method is “good for the community, the land and the head”.
“This model will stand up to financial, environmental and conventional scrutiny using animals and resources from the land itself to build fertility and productivity,” he told That’s Farming.
“We sell all products produced on this farm directly to the end customers through our online shop. This ensures a stable, steady retail income, not a transitory commodity-based wholesale income. We are price makers, not price takers.”
“Also, we offer a closed-loop composting service of food and garden waste to our customers. We use chickens, pigs, and vermicomposting to create the best and most efficient compost possible.”
“This ensures a sustainable income for us, the farmer, while supporting the local community. Our mission statement is to regenerate pride and passion to the craft of farming.”
Sustainable living for small farmers
The Laois native is passionate about building soil organic matter, compost, and plant fertility. He said he understands soil science and has a desire to spread this information throughout Ireland and worldwide.
“Farming is at a low ebb in Ireland at present as it is worldwide. There is a leadership vacuum created from the despair of modern chemical farming that I believe can be filled with hope and independence with biological farming.”
“Our mission is to prove there is a sustainable living for small farmers, connect the end consumers to farmers and encourage farmers to grow nutrient-rich natural food.”
Their goal is to prove this farming model stands up financially, environmentally, and socially, then open the farm to the public to educate interested parties and replicate the plan nationwide and worldwide.
“Pasture range poultry, pigs and bovines are more than just free-range. Pasture range animals have access to green, fresh pasture at all times.”
“We move their access areas every week, reducing the build-up of parasites and pathogens in an area and infecting our animals and birds.”
“This means that when an animal is fed on a diet which is closer to nature, the nutrition of their meat/eggs improves significantly.”
Pasture range eggs
According to Brendan, eggs from hens raised on pasture can contain 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene and four to six times more vitamin D.
“This is because they consume a more natural diet including seeds, worms, insects and green plants, plus a lot of sunshine,” he commented.
Pasture range egg’s colour, flavour and texture are made distinctive by high amounts of Vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA. He described a pasture-raised egg as a “true superfood”.
Their pasture pig production will consist of heritage breed pigs like Tamworth, Saddlebacks and Gloucestershire Old Spot.
They will fence their sycamore, ash, oak, and alder forest into one-quarter-acre paddocks with an electric fence backed up with post and rail fencing along the perimeter.
Besides, they will also fence off access roadways through the property for easy access to each paddock and aid the animals’ movement.
“All shelter, water and feed will be mobile to aid easy movement. After clearing each paddock of vegetation, they will not be given access to that same paddock for up to three months. This will give the land an adequate rest period between grazing and ensure a truly regenerative system.”
Pigs and rosé veal
When pigs are raised on pasture, with access to natural forage and plenty of sunshine, their meat and fat are also richer in micronutrients, particularly fat-soluble vitamins E and D, as well as selenium.
“As monogastric animals, like humans, pigs make vitamin D in their skin and in their fat when they are exposed to sunlight, making pasture-raised pork particularly rich in vitamin D.”
Their beef animals are dairy bull calves, which they purchase at 10-days-old. They are hand raised and out wintered through the forest, where they spend their time foraging on different grasses and herbs growing naturally on its floor.
“We process them in a local independently owned abattoir and sell the individual cuts directly to our loyal customers. We need local farms producing healthy, happy whole foods naturally supported by the local people. I feel we must reconnect with our food, our farmers and the land’s energy.”
“Also, we are sequestering carbon back to the soil and increasing the organic matter all with people, animals and plants combined with the latest scientific data to guide us through.”
“The perfect combination of old and new knowledge working in harmony. I firmly believe if you looked back to the past, it holds the solutions to many of today’s problems.”
“The future is bright if we can educate people on how biodynamic farming can benefit everyone,” Brendan concluded.
You can purchase produce, including rosé veal steak, rosé veal burger – welfare-friendly, welfare-friendly rosé veal joint, welfare-friendly rosé veal mince, welfare-friendly rosé veal stew, pork sausages, free-range thick-cut rashers, free-range welfare high streaky rashers and six large forest free-range pastured eggs, directly from their website.
You can follow Fior Bhia Farm’s regenerative farming journey on Instagram here.