Joe Condon is worthy of this award due to his commitment and passion for farming for nature. Joe’s farming career began in 1996, when he expanded his small holding to include 50 acres of enclosed land and access to over 2,000 acres of commonage in the Knockmealdown Mountains, Co. Tipperary. For Joe, farming for nature is synonymous with farming smartly, and his research into breeds of cattle that would enhance the landscape culminated in his purchase of a herd of Galloways. These cattle are ideally suited to year -round grazing, as they prefer to graze extensively and are physically suited to the elements that exist in the uplands, possessing a double coat of hair. Galloways have a positive effect on controlling bracken and other invasive species. They are adapted to thrive on forage that grows naturally and abundantly on the hills, which makes this enterprise agriculturally progressive. Simplicity is a value in Joe’s farming method. A low input system makes economic and environmental sense. The final product is sold and marketed directly to consumers under the brand Omega Beef Direct and is available in a selection of local shops. Selling direct has improved this farm’s position in the food chain. This enables the farmer and the farm to be a price maker, not a price taker. An example of low food miles is animals are butchered within 8 kilometres of the farm, and the burgers are featured on the menu of an award-winning café that is 6 kilometres from the farm. Joe’s farming system gives locals and visitors an opportunity to taste and enjoy a product that has been truly produced in nature in the local area, a well as enhancing a sense of food security and satisfaction. Recently, Joe has supplied his beef to the Urban Coop on the outskirts of Limerick, a cooperative community grocery store, another socially progressive outlet for the beef. Joe’s belief in sustainable farming of the uplands inspired him to take on a mentoring role in a DAFM project that encouraged farmers of similar holdings to see the potential and benefit that this type of farming method could provide. As a member of the Irish Natura Hill Farmers Association, Joe has collaborated with a wide variety of stakeholders both in Ireland and in Brussels to advise on policy about farming with nature in the uplands.
Nominator: Michael Freaney, Advisor, Teagasc