'Farmers must be compensated for environment work'


Ailbhe Gerrard
Ailbhe Gerrard

Ken Whelan

Farmers are not properly compensated for the environmental and wildlife preservation work they do as part of their everyday farming enterprises, and this has to be addressed both by Irish politicians and in Brussels.

That's the view of Ailbhe Gerrard, who runs an organic farm on the shores of Lough Derg in Co Tipperary.

"We are facing a biodiversity crisis and it is the farmers who are solely taking care of the health of the soil and the water supply, and this has to be reflected in the distribution of the funds in the next Common Agricultural Policy funds," says the 48-year-old.

"It is critical that the CAP funding recognises the threat to sustainable farming.

"If you look at biodiversity you see that a third of our insect species are under threat and we have problems with our water quality and the health of our soils.

"The farmers are the only ones dealing with these issues, and the CAP funding should be used to assist them."

Ailbhe bought Brookfield farm near Nenagh eight years ago and runs a lamb, barley and forestry enterprise, divided evenly over the 75 acres; she has won numerous Good Taste awards.

She has been nominated for the inaugural RDS Talamh awards for sustainable farming and for the Forestry Awards.

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She is also part of a countrywide beehive venture which markets honey and beeswax candles.

She has a pop-up shop on the farm to seasonably sell her honey and candles and is planning to build a proper shop as soon as is practical.

She is building up her flock and at the moment is sending around 20 lambs to her processing butchers in Portumna and Cloughjordan for her "food direct" service for her customers.

She refuses to take the Mart route for her stock, saying their lamb prices do not get near balancing the costs and work put in by producers.

Her 25 acres of barley is harvested by a local contractor and sold on to Arrabawn Co-Op. She is replanting her forest with native oak and sycamore.

And if that's not enough, Ailbhe also lectures on sustainable agriculture and equine science at Gurteen agricultural college near Roscrea.

An academic by nature - "I always liked learning - she has three masters degrees in various agricultural and environmental disciplines .

Asked how she it all, she replies: "A third of the time in the college and a third of the time for myself and the rest on the farm".

In conversation with Ken Whelan

Indo Farming

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