Gerard Deegan transitioned from organic dairying to mixed farming on his 140-acre enterprise nine years ago.
The farm, which comprises 100-acres of forestry and a beef unit, has been certified organic for over two decades.
His forest comprises 50% hardwood and 50% softwood. Gerard is an advocate for diverse forestry systems; he practices continuous cover forestry and has incorporated wildlife strips between rows of trees.
There are approximately 60 different species of trees on the Westmeath enterprise. These include Norway spruce, Scots pine, Larch, Douglas Fir, Ash, Oak, Sycamore and Beech, amongst others.
The winner of the 2019 RDS Farm Forestry Award has incorporated forestry on his land first under FEPS and practices silvopastural and continuous cover forestry. He has also incorporated wildlife strips on the farm between the trees.
Beef and bees
Besides, he manages a small suckler herd producing organic beef and also keeps bees, producing honey for neighbours and friends.
He has an apiary on the farm with approximately 1 million bees, has a solar array for providing some of his electricity needs and a reed bed system for dealing with runoff from the farmyard.
“The bees are a lesson in life. They have taught me a lot about nature. How we are all connected, and how everyone has a role to play, no matter how big or small that role may be.”
Social farming and a holistic outlook
Furthermore, Gerard is involved in social farming and a member of Leitrim Organic Farmers since 1990.
He holds a holistic outlook on his farm, understanding and valuing the importance of every living creature on the land – from the microscopic soil fungi to the cattle, from the bees to the oak trees.
“When we were growing up, we were told to produce more, more and more; don’t worry about the price, just increase production.”
“But, it is at a stage now inputs are outdoing outputs in costs. The younger generation is coming around to a different way of farming: regenerative farming, looking after the soil and everything in nature. It will respond to you and give you everything you need.”
Farming for Nature
Now in its fourth year, FFN aims 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 families”.
The seven ambassadors will feature at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend in October. Organisers will announce the winner of the public vote at this event.
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