Eamon McDonagh says that his Mayo-based farm is “a testament to what can be achieved when a love of nature is coupled with a passion for local, sustainable food and when diversification is championed over specialisation”.
The McDonagh family run an organic mixed farm in County Mayo, where keep cows, sheep, pigs, ducks, and hens.
They grow 2 acres of organic root vegetables which are sold locally and have planted over 8 acres of mixed broadleaf forestry on the land.
The mature hedgerows and field boundaries are left to grow naturally and serve as important habitats for birds and other wildlife. They continue to plant trees on the farm every year.
Relying on very few external inputs, the family have built a farm that is highly self-sufficient and resilient to environmental and economic shocks.
The grazing paddocks contain a diverse mix of grasses and herbs, while animals provide manure which is a crucial source of fertility for the vegetable beds.
They use green manures to naturally increase the nitrogen content of the soil where the vegetables are grown.
Eamonn has worked with draft horses and more recently, with oxen to work the land.
The draft animals are used to carry out many of the farm tasks – from harvesting trees from the wooded part of the farm to harrowing vegetable beds.
The McDonaghs have hosted farm walks on the farm for Slow Food Ireland
and the Small Growers Network.
Farming for Nature
The Farming for Nature (FFN) project has welcomed the Mayo farmer and his family to their growing ambassador network.
Now in its fifth year, Farming For Nature was set up with an aim to source, share and celebrate the stories of farmers across Ireland who manage their land in a way that sustains nature, while providing a livelihood for their family.
The McDonaghs are part of fifteen ambassadors that come from across Ireland and include beef, sheep, forestry, dairy, horticulture and tillage farmers who manage a wide range of very valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.
The Farming for Nature ambassador network is made up of family farms, couples, and both
male and female farmers.
The Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network.