Greenfield blow as landowners decide to return to 'more traditional' farming

Teagasc Greenfield farm open day in Kilkenny. Photo: Roger Jones.
Teagasc Greenfield farm open day in Kilkenny. Photo: Roger Jones.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Hopes of a reversal of the decision to call time on the Greenfield dairy farm programme were dealt a shattering blow this week when the owners of the land, the Phelan family, announced that they were taking back control of the property.

In a statement, issued to the Farming Independent, the Phelan family said that after a decade of partial involvement in this high-profile project, they wanted to return to day-to-day farming of the holding in a more traditional family farming structure.

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"We will take on this challenge with gusto and make it succeed," the statement said.

"We now wish to take full ownership of the company operating the farm lease."

The Phelan family said they are grateful to the project's partners and the farm's employees, and thanked the thousands of farmers who visited over the past decade.

"Doubtless, some will be disappointed that this project will not continue in its current format, but we do hope they respect our preference to take back control of day-to-day operations on what is a family farm," the family said.

"While the project has had its ups and downs, and while we have not always been in agreement with some of the operations, we do recognise the enormous contribution the project has made to Irish dairying.

"It has created a substantial bank of knowledge that will remain available to our fellow farmers for the years to come."

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Glanbia was the first partner to announce that it was seeking to end its involvement in the farm.

The farm, which is located at Clara outside Kilkenny, is eight years into a 15-year project. It is run as a limited company with three shareholders: Glanbia, the Agricultural Trust (which publishes the Irish Farmers Journal) and the Phelan family. Teagasc has provided management services and advice.

Showcase

The farm aimed to showcase best practice in the conversion of a greenfield site into a fully functional dairy farm. The company leased 117 hectares and invested over €1m to develop a low-cost, labour-efficient farm infrastructure for a 300-cow herd. It remains unclear whether the project will continue in some form; an advertised information day on the farm on May 28 is expected to go ahead.

Justin McCarthy, editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, said it remains fully committed to the Greenfields project "which we feel has delivered great learnings to farmers over the past ten years. Looking ahead we feel that the farm is ideally positioned to continue to help farmers address some of the evolving challenges that an expanding dairy industry has to manage".

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