Cathal and Bronagh O’ Rourke

Cathal and Bronagh O'Rourke along with their three daughters manage a 500-acre farm in the Burren County Clare. The cattle finishing farming system is complimented by a successful on-site agri-tourism business. The farm is a mix of green land, mature hazel woodland, limestone pavement, turlough and species rich grassland. Part of the farm is within the Burren National Park and Lough Bunny is situated on the land.

The O’Rourke family are part of the Burren Farming Programme where they take numerous actions to support nature and wildlife on the land. These include clearing scrubland to link up grazable areas, grazing cattle on the Winterage to encourage the growth of native Burren flora and reducing inputs in the improved agricultural areas of the farm. Some of their beef produce is sold direct to customers which has proven to be a successful alternative route to market option. They are part of the Hares Corer Project which involves the planting of native Burren Pine on the land.

Cathal and Bronagh are passionate about educating people on the natural beauty, the flora and fauna, and the local heritage of the Burren region. There is an abundance of birds on the land including the occasional Hen Harrier. They describe their way of farming as a lifestyle which respects and enhances the land of which they are custodians of.

Nomination Description:
Cathal and Bronagh O'Rourke along with their three daughters run a agro-tourism business and a cattle finishing operation on their farm in the Burren Co. Clare. Their farm is a mix of green land, mature hazel woodland, limestone pavement, species rich grassland, turlough and also is adjacent to Lough Bunny. Some of the land is also within the Burren National Park. Over the years the O'Rourke's have been actively engaged in the Burren Programme, timing grazing to ensure optimal abundance of wildflowers. Opening scrub paths to link up grazable areas, installing fences to target grazing on the species rich areas. They have also reduced inputs in the improved agricultural areas. They reduced stock numbers as a result which in turn comes with environmental benefits. They run an agro-tourism business engaging with the general public, educating people about the biodiversity of the land, the farming practices and giving guests a great insight into farming in a biodiverse area such as this. They also run a direct-to-consumer beef operation. I have seen an abundance of wildflowers in the species rich areas. There is a wealth of birdlife around the lake and I have also a Hen Harrier flying over on occasion. They are also actively involved in the Hare's Corner, planting an area of Burren Pine on the land also. They have an eco-camping area in the summer and run numerous community events including picnics, yoga classes, foraging days really giving the local people and tourists a great opportunity to experience the beautiful nature of the Burren firsthand.
Nominator: Donal Hogan, Agro-ecologist, Burren Programme

Nomination 2: Cathal and his wife Bronagh and their young family run a beef farm on the Burren in County Clare. Their farm covers a variety of habitats from woodland and lakeshore to limestone pavement which they take great efforts to maintain and incorporate in their vision for the farm.
Nominator: Cormac McGinley, Ecologist, Cormac's Coast

Nomination 3: The O’Rourke family have been synonymous with farming in North Clare and South Galway for generations. Their family farm is a best practice example of traditional farming methods that have helped shape and conserve the Burren landscape for centuries. The farming system carried out is an extensive grass-based calf to beef system where all animals are reared on farm and remain here until they are finished animals. The O’Rourke family process many of the animals themselves and have an online sales outlet such is their confidence in the quality of the product that this farm produces. Animals are maintained in the multi-species grasslands for the summer months. This provides good quality feed for the livestock as well as supporting the development and maintenance of the swards. Silage is harvested from some of the traditionally improved fields as bales which are fed to the cattle that are housed. The traditional winterage grazing practices are also being observed with some of the animals over the winter months. The winterage areas are generally rested during the summer months which gives the abundance of native Burren flora their chance to thrive. This vegetation is then grazed off during the autumn and winter to ensure that the sward is clean and open for the plants the following summer. This proliferation of native flora throughout the farm provides ample opportunities for invertebrates, which can be seen and definitely heard during the long summer days, which in turn provide a valuable food source for the birds and small mammals that are present on the farm. The structure of the farm in terms of fields, field boundaries, woodlands, limestone pavement and water features provide huge connectivity and variety for wildlife to thrive. In order to further enhance the species rich grasslands in the limestone pavement area an approved scrub control management plan is followed as per the farm’s participation in the renowned Burren Programme. The farm is also in the GLAS scheme which helps incentivise good environmental management of areas both inside and outside of the Natura 2000 areas. The farm is also home to many historical and archaeological features from pre-famine settlements, the remains of a chapel from the 1700’s, and an enclosure dating from over 2,000 years ago. They provide guided tours of their working farm through mixed species grassland, deciduous woodland and karst limestone pavement intermingled with species rich grassland which runs down to the shore of Lough Bunny which has no river inflow or outflow but being located in the Burren is fed through springs and drained through sinkholes. The O’Rourke family are aware that they have been blessed to have such a resource within the family and are very careful to nurture it and to leave it in better condition for future generations.
Nominator: Paul Mullins, Ag Advisor, Teagasc

Nomination 4:
Cathal and his wife Bronagh O'Rourke are fifth generations farmers of the land at Tubber, Co. Claire. They have put a huge amount of work into clearing the land for the Burren programmer to improve the biodiversity of the area and have removed scrub in an effort to enhance the rare flora and fauna of the lands. The O'Rourke's farm in regenerative manner to reduce environmental impact and leave habits intact. Hedgerows, ponds, native woodlands and limestone pavement form the diverse landscape of the farm that they endeavor to protect. The O'Rourke's are passionate about educating the public about their unique landscape.
Nominator: Mercedes Kavanagh, Enviroguide

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