Jessfield farm is a 500-acre farm located on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border. The farm has been in the family for 250 years. Martin Fitzgerald took over the farm from his father and has since modified the farming system in ways that hugely reduce the impact of farming activities on the land. Martin now runs a herd of 85 continental store bullocks. The cattle are overwintered outdoors and fed silage that has been cut off the land. External and chemical inputs are kept to a minimum and the farm is very extensively managed.
The permanent pasture contains a wide variety of plant species including wild orchids. There is an array of mature trees and hedgerows, all of which provide habitat for insects and birds. There are red squirrel, pine martin, buzzards, cuckoos and woodpeckers on the land. The old stone walls on the land also provide a habitat for many insects.
Martin’s farm is a wonderful example of an extensive, low-input farm that allows tremendous space for nature and wildlife on the land the flourish.
100 years ago, Jessfield was the most moden farm in the vicinity, with gravity fed water supplies throughout the farm and a grazing rotation plan in place. Not much has changed in the meantime, meaning it is now one of the least modernised farms in the area! For all that, it does not suffer. Fertiliser inputs are kept to minimum and a herd of continental store cattle are outwintered. Stone walls, hedgerows and heritage gates are all maintained in the traditional style, which benefits the local biodiversity. The farm has been worked by the same family for generations, with detailed husbandry records going back to prove it. In an farming area where there is ever-increasing intensification, Martin is an excellent ambasssador for another, more nature friendly, lower input, method of farming.
Nominator: Tim O Connell, Project Administrator, BurrenLife