Ciarán Ó Fatharta
Ciarán Ó Fatharta’s farm is on Inis Meáin, and like most Aran farmers, the farm is scattered throughout the island. Seventy five percent of the islands are within Special Areas of Conservation and most of Ciaráns farm is within the SAC on account of the fantastic Orchid-rich calcareous grassland, Limestone pavement and Machair habitat. These habitats and the incredible biodiversity associated with them have been conserved and maintained by the low intensity farming practiced by Ciarán and other Aran Island farmers. These low intensity farming practices support fields full of orchids, spring gentians, devils bit scabious, harebell, birds foot trefoil, to name but a few. The floral diversity supports incredible invertebrate diversity and bird species such as lapwing that are breeding successfully on the islands but are in decline elsewhere. This would not be possible without the incredible efforts of Ciarán and other islanders in maintaining the traditional farming systems of the islands.
Ciarán runs a suckler farm and grows some vegetables and rye. The traditional practice of growing rye was once widespread on the islands but is now limited to Inis Meáin. Rye was grown on the islands primarily for thatching. Ciarán grows rye to re-thatch ‘Synge’s Cottage’, the cottage where the playwright John Millington Synge stayed on Inis Meáin and the original home place of Ciarán and his family. The rye is harvested and threshed in the traditional way and the rye field supports rare species that were once associated with arable crops but have died out in most places due to intensification of farming practices. These rare species, such as Darnel (Lolium temulentum), are still found on Inis Meáin, which is the only stronghold for this species in Ireland.
Ciarán is generous with his time when it comes to sharing his farming knowledge with others and recently demonstrated the art of rye threshing and binding for all primary school children on the three Aran Islands on an AranLIFE organised field trip to Inis Meáin. Ciarán has also participated in DVDs on the island farming system produced by AranLIFE. https://youtu.be/id2Ra_KYLwQ.
Ciarán was an AranLIFE farmer from 2014 to 2018 and is now part of Caomhnú Árann, the follow- on project to AranLIFE. Caomhnú Árann is an EIP-Agri Operational Group co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the EU and will run from 2019 to 2021. ‘Caomhnú Árann’ means ‘Conserving Aran’ and Ciarán’s farming efforts conserves both the farming practises and traditions and the rich biodiversity of the islands that are so closely interlinked.
Nominator: Amanda Browne, Scentific & Technical Officer, Caomhnú Árann