Eamonn McDonagh runs an organic mixed farm in county Mayo. He keeps cows, sheep, pigs, ducks and hens. Eamonn grows 2 acres of organic root vegetables which are sold locally. He has planted over 8 acres of mixed broadleaf forestry on the land. The mature hedgerows and field boundaries are left to grow naturally and serve as important habitats for birds. He continues to plant trees on the farm every year.
Relying on very few external inputs, Eamonn has built a farm that is highly self-sufficient and resilient. The grazing paddocks contain a diverse mix of grasses. The animals provide manure which is a crucial source of fertility for the vegetable beds. He uses green manures to naturally increase the nitrogen content of the soil where the vegetables are grown. Eamonn has worked with draft horses and more recently with oxen to work the land. The draft animals are used to carry out many of the farm tasks – from harvesting trees from the wooded part of the farm to harrowing vegetable beds.
Eamonn has hosted farm walks on his farm for Slow Food Ireland and the Small Growers Network. “This farm is a testament to what can be achieved when a love of nature is coupled with a passion for local, sustainable food and when diversification is championed over specialisation”.
Eamonn is a wonderful example of a farmer who understands the importance and benefits of small-scale, hands-on farming in harmony with the natural world. Together with his wife, Geraldine, and their two children, he stewards a 30-acre certified organic mixed farm. His farm integrates animal, vegetable and woodland enterprises to produce food, fuel and fibre while at the same time it creates an oasis for pollinators, wildlife, and native species.
Eamonn is very conscientious about his care of the soil and plants and uses keen observation and traditional skills to tend the land. He works with draft horses and cattle to carry out most the farm tasks – from harvesting trees on the wooded part of his property, to harrowing beds in the polytunnel. This approach helps to better protect the soil structure, preserves the natural forest mycelium and cultivates a deep appreciation and respect for the ecosystem.
His agroecological approach to cultivation and harvesting of his vegetables and trees coupled with his diverse mix of sheep, cows, horses, pigs, poultry on the land, create many biological niches on his farm where nature flourishes. All the while, Eamonn is increasing the food security and sovereignty of his local community, providing them with a well-rounded variety of nutritious and delicious organic foods.
Eamonn is passionate about preserving both biodiversity and ancestral farming knowledge and techniques. He has hosted farm walks for The Organic Growers of Ireland as well as Slow Food Ireland and he is one member of the vital network of vegetable growers saving heritage varieties of seeds for Seed Savers. Eamonn's farm is a testament to what can be achieved when a love of nature is coupled with a passion for local, sustainable food and when diversification is championed over specialisation.
Nominator: Mimi Crawford, FFN Ambassador