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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 2 December 2021

'I love the connection to nature': How Sean O'Farrell is using his family farm to help the planet

Organic farmer Sean is taking powerful steps to lower emissions and keep his land healthy.

Source: Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications/YouTube

 

“I LOVE WHAT I do, and my love for what I do continues to grow.”

Farming is in Sean O’Farrell’s blood. Born and raised in Cloncannon, Co Tipperary on the western slopes of the Devil’s Bit mountains, he took over the family farm from his father 15 years ago.

Taking over was a chance for O’Farrell to build his passion for biodiversity and heritage into the work he does every day. These days, the 60-acre site is known as Cloncannon Biofarm, and is a fully organic farm producing organic meat, chicken, vegetables and fruit.

By cutting out chemical fertilisers and pesticides, planting large patches of native trees and allowing hedgerows to mature without cutting them back frequently, O’Farrell is ensuring that insects, birds and other creatures have a safe, diverse habitat to live in.

He’s also ensuring the soil on his farm is healthier, more nutrient-rich and better protected from erosion. The benefits might not be immediately visible to us humans, but it’s all part of making the planet a more sustainable, safer and greener place to live, he says:

You might say, ‘What do hedgerows have to do with climate change?’. The stronger the web of life is, the more resilient the whole system is.

Educating the local community is another key focus for Cloncannon Biofarm, with regular workshops for adults and schoolchildren held online and on the farm, covering everything from growing organic vegetables to identifying different native trees.

For O’Farrell, the benefits don’t just come in the form of profits for his business, but in knowing he’s creating a safer, greener future for the country:

If you’re trying to bring in money… but at the same time… reducing your resilience to climate change, it’s not sustainable.

O’Farrell’s belief is echoed in the government’s Climate Action Plan, published last month. As part of an ambitious target to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030, the government is introducing a number of measures to promote more sustainable farming and land use. 

Thousands of hectares of additional trees will be planted under the Forestry Programme launching in 2023, and there’ll be a focus on managing land more sustainably and less intensively. All of this will form part of a pathway for Ireland’s land and forestry sector to become a ‘carbon sink’, absorbing more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases.

The plan also sets out measures to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector by between 22% and 30% by 2030. Farmers will be supported to reduce the use of chemical nitrogen fertiliser, to increase the amount of organically farmed land under their care, and to explore opportunities for diversification, among other things.

O’Farrell feels that this government support and incentivisation will be vital in ensuring nationwide commitment to reaching Ireland’s agriculture and land use goals.

“If a farmer puts in 70 trees, that’s a value to society, a value to the planet. The same applies for proper hedgerow management and rotational cutting. Farmers must get recognition for that.”

Speaking at the launch of the Climate Action Plan earlier this month, Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan said that the next ten years presented an opportunity to create real, lasting change that would benefit the country for generations to come:

It’s our chance to make the right choice and create a new Ireland where we cut our dependence on fossil fuels… Where our food is produced in a greener, cleaner way that also protects nature and supports farmers’ incomes.

To learn more about how one Irish farmer is working toward a greener future for Ireland, watch the video here. And to find out more about the key actions for agriculture and land use set out in the Climate Action Plan, click here.

Sponsored by:

The Department of Environment, Climate & Communications

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