In the final of our Nuffield Scholar series, editor of That’s Farming, Catherina Cunnane, speaks to Pat O’Meara.
How long have you been involved in agriculture?
I grew up on a mixed farming enterprise of tillage, sheep, and cattle in North Tipperary.
I officially took over the running of the farm in 2006 and converted the farm to dairying in 2014. Now, I run a spring-calving dairy enterprise on both owned and leased land, and my replacements are being contract-reared.
During this period, I also worked as an Agri Advisor with AIB but left that position last Christmas to concentrate on farming and family life. I am married to Siobhan, and we are due our second child early in 2021.
What did you apply for a Nuffield Scholarship?
I realised it was a massive opportunity for both personal development and giving something back to the agri sector.
The Nuffield Scholarship provides the opportunity of building strong networks and learning from international experiences.
What was your topic?
My topic was ‘How can Irish farmers be encouraged to meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets?’
Climate change is a significant threat facing us all, and as a farming community, we need to increase our efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
On a personal level, I was conscious that I wasn’t sure what actions I should be taking and believed many more farmers are in a similar position.
Summarise your Nuffield Scholar journey
I applied for the scholarship in July 2018. Following two rounds of interviews, I was successfully selected as one of seven Nuffield Ireland scholars.
Following our introduction at the annual conference in November 2018, the programme really kicked off.
Highlights of the programme included a Global Focus programme, where eight fellow scholars travelled to four continents and seven countries over six weeks. They were from the USA, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia.
During this period, it became apparent that the people you interact with were the most important aspect of travel – they are the ones who inspire. The groups of nine became very close during our travel and have a bond for life.
In addition, I completed personal travel to Northern Ireland, England, Italy, and Belgium. Here, I undertook more focused research on my topic, and this has resulted in my Nuffield Report being completed this month.
Key findings included:
- Firstly, much work is being done to encourage farmers to reduce GHG emissions;
- Ireland is in a very strong position with a detailed action plan;
- Irish farmers need to adopt the measures identified in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve;
- Lastly, Ireland needs to invest in resources that will deliver behaviour change
Recommendations in my report include:
- Develop a new low GHG emissions report;
- Develop a peatland rewetting scheme;
- Provide 60% grant aid for targeted investment;
- Targets need to be communicated in a language that farmers can relate to.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your Nuffield Scholarship journey?
Engaging with so many people around the world that are so generous with their time and passionate about agriculture.
The most challenging part was converting so many great experiences, practices, and ideas to a structure report. Thankfully, we are there now.
Sum up your Nuffield Scholar journey This Nuffield journey has changed me for the better. With international exposure, I gained, coupled with a broader network of friends and colleagues across the globe, I now have a more balanced viewpoint on the challenges and issues that we face.
Lunch and learn series
Nuffield Ireland will host a week-long virtual ‘lunch and learn’ series, hosted by the returning 2019 Nuffield Scholars.
The lunchtime series will be free to attend and will feature a 10-minute presentation at 1.30 pm. Each day, scholars will outline the key findings of their report.
Pat will present the findings of her studies at 1:30 pm on Friday (November 27th) – See here.