Galway family farm goes organic as the next generation takes over

Beef farmer Brendan Kelly is handing over to his daughter, who will focus on vegetables

 Brendan Kelly, of Woodlawn Co Galway, is  handing over the family farm to his daughter for organic farming.

Brendan Kelly, of Woodlawn Co Galway, is handing over the family farm to his daughter for organic farming.

 

Brendan Kelly, whose family has farmed in Woodlawn in east Galway for generations, hopes that his successors will do so for years to come. But it will not be as beef farmers, however.

Instead, the 62-year-old Kelly is looking to retirement and to handing over the farm to his daughter, Fionn, who plans to go organic.

“It is the way she has decided to go and I support her 100 per cent. She is planting fruit trees, berries, nuts and vegetables.

“We will have our own organic beef, not much but enough for ourselves,” says Mr Kelly, who has led the protest by beef farmers at the Liffey Meats plant at Gortanabla near Taughmaconnell in south Roscommon over the last few days.

The Woodlawn farm supplies vegetables to people in Kinvara and Galway, while he hopes that onions, cabbage and carrots can be sold directly by the farm.

For the east Galway farmer, the move to organic is a long way from the farming methods of recent generations, and yet a step back to the days when farm families were self-sufficient with many selling farm produce to the local shops.

“My daughter insists on obtaining top-class meat being fearful of feeding her daughter meat that is treated with beef hormones, and whatever. She has a PhD in science and she is concerned about colorants in the foods together with the dangers of pesticides,” he said.

“I am currently on farm assist and I will shortly be handing it all over to my daughter to begin full-time organic farming. We may well plant the land with oak and natural trees. My daughter has over 400 sapling trees and that is the kind of farming she will be heading into,” he said.

Love of farming

Brendan Malone is a suckler farmer from Kilconnell near Ballinasloe, who has manned the Taughmaconnell picket-line for up to 12 hours per day since the protests started.

“My wife and four children are running the farm while I am out here. I love farming and I have no plans to change careers. I have 50 acres of my own and I rent another 16.

“I inherited the farm and my family love farming. One of my daughters has horses but we depend totally on beef. I run a herd of 27 suckler cows and there is the calving season earlier in the year.

“I have two sons and two daughters that are wondering what I am doing it all for, and one of the lads is an electrician, but the family will learn to love the land once we get better prices.

“They wonder why I don’t sell up, but I have no intention of doing so. I will probably be down about €150 per head on each one of my weanlings.”

‘Unsustainable’

A 52-year-old farmer from south Roscommon, who identified himself only as John emphasised that the Beef Plan Movement factory protests are about more than just prices.

The father of a young family, he has no desire for any of them to follow him into farming: “The whole thing is unsustainable, and there is nothing index linked, even the payments from the EU are being curtailed

“People are leaving rural Ireland by the day, it’s being shut down. Unless one family member is employed away from the land, regardless of its size, they simply couldn’t survive.”