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Tuesday 21 August 2018

'Crop will rot in to the ground': Farming nun heartbroken from the worst spring ever

Sr Lily Scullion checking out the miscanthus crop which is being used to heat the Abbey. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Sr Lily Scullion checking out the miscanthus crop which is being used to heat the Abbey. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A farming nun whose monastery is in danger of being without fuel for the winter, said she is heartbroken from the worst spring ever.

Sr Lily Scullion, who is the farm manager at Glencairn Abbey Monastery in Lismore, Co Waterford said that the Abbey has been unable to harvest 25 acres of their miscanthus crop, which they use to heat the monastery in the winter due to the terrible weather conditions.

“The crop is harvested in spring, before the new growth starts. Unfortunately with the very wet weather this miscanthus is very wet and can't be baled.

“We need several consecutive days of dry, hot weather, as soon as possible otherwise it will rot in to the ground and we will not have enough fuel for the winter.

“We usually harvest it in March but the field is sodden. Farmers are heartbroken. It’s definitely the worst spring I’ve experienced on the farm,” says Sr Lily.

Sr Lily says that the entire order of Cistercian nuns is praying hard that the weather will improve for the farming community.

“It’s been such an extended winter. We are in the middle of April and haven’t gotten any spring at all. I don’t know how dairy farmers are coping. We’re praying for farmers who have no fodder and that we get a dry spell of weather soon,” she said.

In 2007 Sr Lily was appointed farm manager.

"I used to go out to farms and buy the cattle. I bought in beef but margins were still poor."

Although the Sisters started farm sharing with the Mount Melleray monks for a three year period, it just wasn't sustainable. With an ageing population of Sisters (29 in total today) and a labour intensive enterprise, it was decided to switch again into sheep, expand the tillage side and lease out some lands.

Today the holding consists of a flock of 23 ewes, 39 lambs, a ram and 13 hoggets for breeding for next year. The flock is a mixture of Texel, Charollais and Suffolks.


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