“I am not used to being in the limelight down here!” Martin said of his surprise at being among the shortlisted candidates for Dairy Farmer of the Year. Martin inherited the family farm, which he now runs along with his wife Joan.
Their three sons all take a keen interest in farming and the eldest, Alex (20), is currently studying Agricultural Science in UCD. Conor (17) and Fearghal (15) are currently busy preparing for their Leaving and Junior Cert exams but will no doubt enjoy getting back to the farm in the summer months. Martin said the decision some years ago to change the feeding regime for his calves was a wise, cost-saving measure.
“Yogurt is added to the milk and pumped straight from the parlour to the calve sheds, a mixture which greatly reduces scour,” he said.
Name: Tom O’Sullivan
Location: Crookstown, Co Cork
Area farmed: 103 acres
Type of farming: Dairy only
Béal na Blá is famous as the site of the ambush and assassination of Michael Collins in 1922 but the area is also home to nominee Tom O’Sullivan, whose family have been farming this land since 1822.
He is the fifth generation on his father’s side, and ninth on his mother’s side, to keep the tradition alive. Today, Tom milks a herd of 85 cows.
Along with his wife Alice, they have three sons, Pat (26), Alan (25) and Sean (20). All are well travelled, with Pat a PE teacher in the Middle East and Alan doing a post-grad in the States. Sean has recently returned from work placement on a farm in New Zealand, having studied Agricultural Science in Kildalton College and WIT, and now hopes to form a partnership with his father on the farm.
SHEEP FARMER OF THE YEAR
Name: Brian Nicholson
Location: Johnstown, via Thurles, Co Kilkenny
Area farmed: 300 acres
Type of farming: All sheep
A graduate of Kildalton College in Co Kilkenny, Brian took over the farm from his grandfather Tom Nicholson on his passing in 2004.
Tom was a well-known trainer and breeder of racehorses, a tradition now upheld by Brian’s father Tom who farms nearby.
Initially farming cattle and sheep, Brian gradually switched his focus solely to sheep and has been growing his flock ever since. It now stands at 1,100 ewes. The flock is made up of Belclare and Texel cross ewes and all ewe lambs are bred to Ile de France, Vendeen and Charollais rams.
In addition to running a busy farm, Brian is a member of Irish Grassland Council and Chairman of the Sheep committee, as well as a member of Teagasc Sheep Stakeholders. He also writes a fortnightly article about sheep farming for the Irish Farmers Journal.
His wife, Alison, is a primary school teacher and they have two children, Mia (6) and Drew (4).
Name: John Earle
Age: Early 50s
Location: Ballycanew, Gorey, Co Wexford
Area farmed: 80 acres
Type of farming: All sheep
John Earle is a fourth-generation farmer and, together with his wife Margaret, runs a busy sheep farm of some 300 ewes. It is a commercial closed flock consisting of Texel, Charollais, and Suffolk-crossed ewes. Originally a beef farm, it was switched over to only sheep some 25 years ago.
John and Margaret’s love for farming has been passed on to all of their six children, with their eldest, Edward (28), now in the process of setting up a partnership with his father. Elizabeth (26) has just completed her PHD with Teagasc and UCD in studying sheep performance in Athenry, while Martha (25) is currently working for a sheep shearing company in Australia. The youngest Gillian (14) is attending secondary school and is developing her flock of Border Leicester sheep. Alice (27) and Jonathan (22) also take an interest in the farm when time allows.
Name: Joe Scahill
Location: Prospect, Westport, Co Mayo
Area farmed: 130 acres
Type of farming: Sheep and cattle
Joe and his wife Cathy run a very successful sheep farm on the foothills of Croagh Patrick. With 600 ewes, the workload can be huge, especially in spring, but the team run a tight ship helped by good facilities and good sheepdogs.
Their daughters Lisa (18) and Kate (16) take a keen interest in the farm, while sons Sean (14) and Joseph (12) are currently working towards developing a pure-bred flock of Blueface Leicester ewes. They will have six ewes for this autumn and they intend doing full recording of parentage and performance with Sheep Ireland.
Joe has been chairman of the Mayo Mule and Greyface Group for the past three years and members are constantly driving to improve quality, conformation and traceability, while generally focusing on offering better sheep to lowland farmers.
TILLAGE FARMER OF THE YEAR
Name: Philip Reck
Location: Borovale, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Area farmed: 4,500 acres
Type of farming: All tillage (winter & spring barley, winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, winter & spring oats, spring beans, winter rye, cover crops)
Philip Reck has been the farm manager at Walter Furlong Grain Ltd since 2002 and during this time, he has seen the business go from strength to strength. The company now farms some 4,500 acres.
Among the crops is winter rye which is supplied to Irish Distillers. It is the only crop being grown in the country for this purpose. Their spring and winter barley is also grown for the brewing and distilling industry. Winter oats is grown for export to the cereal bar trade and beans are grown for rolling to be used in local feed trade.
Philip and his partner Martina McGrath have two young children, Aideen (7) and Eve (4). Philip regularly contributes to various farming publications, including the Farmers Weekly and Farm Machinery Journal.
Name: Andrew Workman
Location: Togher, Drogheda, Co Louth
Area farmed: 250 acres
Type of farming: Tillage (spring wheat, winter wheat, spelt, winter rye, spring rye, spring oats, red clover, white clover) and horses
A fourth-generation farmer, Andrew is one cog in the wheel of a very successful family business that also includes his wife, Leonie, and eldest son, Matthew (33). Alex (31) works in IT.
Having switched to organic farming over 10 years ago, Andrew says that their business is thriving. Operating under the name Dunany Farm, it is the only enterprise currently selling flour that is grown, dried, milled and packaged at home. Dunany Flour is now sold countrywide. The Workmans also grow spelt and a large quantity of berries from this crop is sold directly to salad-making companies, while their oats are sold to Flavahans.
In addition to a busy tillage farm, the Workmans also own a thriving equestrian centre run by their manager Michael Tuite.
Name: Tim, Jackie and Mark Ronaldson
Location: Stonebrook, Ballymore Eustace, Naas, Co Kildare
Area farmed: 300 acres
Type of farming: All tillage (beans, barley, oats and wheat)
Tim Ronaldson, along with his son, Mark (25), runs a busy tillage farm, while equally thriving alongside it is Stonebrook Pet Farm, run by Tim’s wife Jackie.
With 200 acres of their own for tillage, they also rent extensively, as well as contract farm a further 350 acres in the locality. They introduced beans into the cropping two years ago and the premium has been very attractive.
Adjacent to the Wicklow Mountains, they are in a very good area for straw/hay and silage sales and service a number of farmers and studs in the area. Tim and Jackie’s eldest son, Craig (27), is a rugby player with Connaught, while Hugh (20) is studying sports science and physiology at Athlone IT and Vicky is in first year in Kilkenny College.
Mark is a graduate in machinery and crop management.