Stephen & Eva Hegarty
Eva and Stephen Hegarty farm 30 acres in the Burren lowlands. They breed free-range, pasture-fed saddleback pigs. Their pork produce is marketed as ‘Burren Free Range Pork’ and is sold locally and direct to consumers via Neighbourfood and REKO. They keep a small suckler herd and the cattle are overwintered outdoors. The cattle are grazed on rich grasslands and are moved frequently to avoid poaching of the wet land. There are also donkeys and chickens on the farm. The animal manure is used as fertilizer in polytunnel and vegetable beds. Nature and animal welfare is at the forefront of the Hegarty’s farm holding – there are no chemical sprays or fertilizers used on the farm – “since we’ve stopped using artificial fertilizer on the fields, we’ve noticed a return of some of the flowers typical to the Burren, like orchids.”
Eva and Stephen are passionate about sustainable living – they have a geothermal heating system for the house as well as a purpose-built reed-system to treat wastewater from the house. They built a pond on the farm to create a water habitat and this has attracted high numbers of frogs. They have bat-boxes and bird-boxes around the farm and have noticed a significant increase in bat numbers as well. They have planted native trees and hedgerows to further increase biodiversity on the farm. They have about 2 acres of bogland which has not been cut since 2008 as they believe the bog is important for water holding and biodiversity.
Eva and Stephen have more recently added an agri-tourism enterprise to the farm. Guests from all over come and stay in a converted a vintage truck, experience life on the farm and enjoy fresh, local homemade food. The Hegarty's actively support local food producers and community initiatives.
Stephen and Eva Hegarty farm 11 hectares of lowland grassland amid the drumlin landscape of
Kilfenora, Co. Clare. Stephen grew up in the area and his partner Eva is from Finland. They manage
the farm together, and both espouse a way of farming and living that places the environment and the
welfare of their animals at the forefront: no chemical fertilisers, no pesticides, no tail docking, no
animals in crates and no addition of medication to the feed.
They breed saddleback sows which are free-range; the pigs' outdoor life means they have 'no real
health issues' according to Stephen, and they root up undesirable weeds. The quality pork (marketed
as Burren Free Range Pork) is sold locally at markets, food fairs and directly to consumers keeping
'farm to fork' miles low, and has won awards. Pig manure and straw from their bedding is recycled
as fertiliser and mulch in the Hegartys' vegetable garden and polytunnel. At the abbatoir Stephen
entices the pigs off the truck with apples, to reduce fear and stress.
The couple also has a small suckler herd which is outwintered. They do not use chemical fertiliser
on their pastures which means grass growth occurs later than otherwise, so calves are born in late
spring and are less susceptible to disease and bad weather. In addition the Hegartys keep two
donkeys, and use their donkey manure as fertiliser.
A small pond, a small copse of native trees and a native hedgerow, all established by Stephen and
Eva, increase biodiversity on the farm holding. They own a hectare of bog which they have chosen
not to harvest since 2008, for environmental reasons. Wastewater from their house is treated in a
purpose-built reedbed system. Eva and Stephen have won a Waste Management Award from the
Cliffs of Moher GeoPark and they take various other measures to reduce their carbon footprint and
raise environmental awareness.
Both Eva and Stephen are qualified local tour guides, offering tours on the ecology, heritage and
social history of the Burren region. They also operate Burren Glamping, which is a converted horse
truck for hire as overnight accommodation, situated right in their farm yard. Guests are given the
opportunity to see first hand the workings of the farm, and sample its produce. They actively
support other local food producers and community initiatives.
Stephen believes that in Ireland we should actively celebrate the rain and the ecosystems that
depend on it, rather than focussing on land drainage. He also feels that more could be done to
encourage the harvesting of rainwater. He strongly believes that biodiversity should be at the heart
of most decision-making as it is so crucial to farming and to survival.
Nominator: Penny Bartlett, Conservation Ranger, NPWS