Conor and Sorcha McPhillips
Conor and Sorcha McPhillips have recently taken over the family farm in County Monaghan. They have been slowly and carefully rebuilding the farm, all the time ensuring that they do so in a manner that is considerate of nature, biodiversity and wildlife on the land. They decided to introduce a small herd of Dexter cattle to manage the permanent pasture. The Dexter’s are outdoors year-round. Beef is sold direct to local customers via a meat box scheme. Hay is cut from the grassland in July every year, ensuring time for ground nesting birds to rear their young and providing an important source of food for insects and birds during the summer months. No chemicals are used on the land and minimal externals inputs are necessary for this extensive farming system. Conor and Sorcha have left the thick and mature hedgerows around the land, only cutting back small sections where necessary to install adequate fencing. A wildlife pond has been dug on the land which has attracted many birds and insects to the farm. The couple have sown wild bird cover around the pond area. There is a small stream on the land which attracts ducks and they have planted a riparian zone along the watercourse.
Conor and Sorcha plan to increase their stock over the next few years and potentially diversify the farm by adding sheep and pigs to their farming system. Nomination:
Conor and Sorcha McPhillips are relatively new to farming, they work fulltime in biomedical science and the charity sector. Though his family have had 13 acres of grassland for over thirty years, the majority of time it’s been in conacre to various farmers seeking extra grazing. Over the course of a few years Conor undertook, on his weekends off from working in Galway or Donegal, to start tidying up the land, while simultaneously renovating his roadside cottage, with a view to farming in the future. The couple spent time researching livestock and decided that Dexter cattle would be best suited to their land and would provide the family with exceptionally tasty beef. When the opportunity arose to move home permanently, three years ago, they applied for a herd number and bought their first two Dexter heifers from a local farmer. Though it would be relatively easy to just jump in and take on a larger herd, they were keen to take their time to get to know the breed, stockproof the land in a manner sensitive to wildlife and slowly build up a farming system which would promote and protect biodiversity while rearing high welfare, quality beef. Over the past three years Conor has been acquiring machinery, fencing, managing hedgerows, installed a wildlife pond surrounded by game cover, peripheries of fields have been sown with wildflowers and game cover to provide feed for birds in winter. Sorcha has been busy growing fruit and vegetables using permaculture techniques, planting hundreds of pollinator friendly bulbs and shrubs on their lands and managing the roadside. There is a big focus on minimising waste both in their household and on the farm. Their Dexter cattle remain on pasture year-round, supplemented with their own non-certified organic hay which is cut in late June/July. The couple have now established Drumsheeny Dexter, and this summer will begin selling pre-order beef boxes, providing a source of high welfare sustainable, zero food miles, beef direct to local customers. They plan to increase their stock over the next few years and potentially diversify by adding lamb and pork and potentially selling surplus vegetables and eggs. They hope to be selected for future environmental schemes and are exploring potential conversion to organic as well as pasture fed certification. They live in Glaslough Co Monaghan with their two daughters aged 3 and 8 months.
Nominator: Pat McKenna, FFN Ambassador