The McDonagh family run an organic mixed farm in county Mayo. They keep cows, sheep, pigs, ducks and hens. They grow 2 acres of organic root vegetables which are sold locally. They have 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 and other wildlife. They continue to plant trees on the farm every year.
Relying on very few external inputs, the family have built a farm that is highly self-sufficient and resilient to environmental and economic shocks. The grazing paddocks contain a diverse mix of grasses and herbs. The animals provide manure which is a crucial source of fertility for the vegetable beds. They use 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. The McDonagh’s have hosted farm walks on the 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.”
Their farm is an Organic Farm sectioned into small 2-acre parcels of gently rolling fields which are bounded by stone walls. The soil is fertile but scarce; there's about 6 inches of it, but it’s more than enough for Eamonn to commercially produce organic vegetables which he sells to a wholesale buyer.
Eamonn’s has working oxen and an impressive collection of old machinery - it may be called ‘vintage’, but it plays an essential daily role in the life of his farm. Once harnessed to the animal, the machinery can plough and harrow the land; sow seeds and dig out stones; spread manure and carry hay and logs. None of it uses diesel - it’s all run on cattle power! He is an amazing unassuming guy and makes the most of his beautiful small farm!
Nominator: Áine Gordon, Farm Inspector