Farmland Walk

Farmland Walk

We are running a walk on our farm on February 12th. Ours is not an “open” farm but rather an ordinary commercial one, on which there are cattle for most of the year. For the winter, it is stock free so this is a chance for anyone interested to walk it.

The route will include what we think are some interesting features/stories, an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth disease in 1941; a small area of woodland planted by Robin about 20 years ago; adjacent to which is an area of wildbird cover planted as part of GLAS, a Norman moated site and the old church and graveyard of Killermogh, which can be traced back as a place of worship to 558.

Hope to see a big crowd on the day.

If you want to read more about the thinking behind the walk, please follow this link to a column Ann wrote in the Farming Independent.


Stuart Meikle writing about farming and food

Since the author started investigating what is happening in the Irish beef sector he has considered that the crisis has resulted from a failure to understand what is happening in Ireland’s primary market, the UK. It shows a failure in the way market information is transmitted between the retail consumer and the farmer. More recently the author has taken a look at the UK supermarket sales. Ideally this would involve visiting stores but for the purposes of this article online is fine as it gives a clear indication of what is happening.

It does not need saying that both the UK and Irish markets are dominated by a few food retailers. Tesco, Lidl and Aldi are common to both. In the UK, Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda are dominant in the fresh meat sector. What is of note is the commonality of their operational practices regardless of national boundaries.


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Two people I have never met made me cry this week …

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Yesterday it was the turn of Irish rugby player 24-year-old Peter O’Mahony. It started with a tear as the camera hovered over him when he was standing in line, belting out Amhran na bhFiann and then Ireland’s Call before the match with Wales. Then there was that moment early in the first half when he stood up and let out a primeval roar having poached the ball off Wales, a pattern which he repeated throughout the match which saw him deservedly being deemed Man of The Match. He played every minute as if it was his last. His passion for rugby and, through it, life, is breathtaking, inspring. I cried with life-reinforcing pride.

Earlier this week I heard that Lucy Stack, the 27-year-old wife of Fozzy Stack, from a highly respected racing family, had taken her own life. In a last letter to friends which was read out at her funeral, she spoke of this being her destiny, of how no phone call or chats over wine could have changed what was about to happen. I cried when I read this. Here was a beautiful young woman, who apparently had so much going for her, was so loved and loving and respected, yet the pull to leave this world was greater. I cried, for the loss to herself, those close to her and what lies in store for them. Life can be so fragile.

Today, O’Mahony will be battered and bruised but his family and friends will be bursting with pride. The hearts of Lucy Stack’s family and friends will be bursting too, but with an incomprehensible grief.
May she rest in peace.

CNN visit our farm

No, there hasn’t been an alien landing or gold discovered in Ballacolla. Sorry!


But there was great excitement and several near misses as passing drivers craned their necks for a better look when a CNN International crew visited the farm yesterday. Jim Boulden CNN Business Correspondent based in London and Business Assignment Editor Carol Jordan (originally from Youghal, Co. Cork) are doing a series of programmes about Ireland’s upcoming exit from the financial bailout and visited the farm to speak to Robin about beef farming. They also spoke to Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia Senior Business Analyst about Ireland’s targets for increased food production.

The world is seeking to expand food production by 70pc over the next four decades but reduce greenhouse gases emissions by a similar order. In this context, Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, last year presented a pioneering sustainability programme entitled Origin Green, in which Ireland set out its ambition to become a world leader in the delivery of sustainable, high quality food and drink products. Agriculture is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and Ireland is the largest net exporter of beef in the EU and indeed the Northern hemisphere while exports of Irish dairy products look set to increase dramatically from 2015 onwards with the abolition of milk quotas. So big challenges lie ahead … how to increase production and become more sustainable at the same time. Origin Green is fronted by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, see


While our older daughter Sarah (9) did get to meet the crew, 6-year-old Ruth, when offered the option, blandly said, “Mammy, I have no interest in meeting CNN.” Carol was saying about how well they had been received everywhere they went. Well, as Valda Boardman, International communications consultant with Bord Bia pointed out, that was because of themselves, they were so so nice, really warm, pleasant and unfussy. Padraig and Valda came in for a cuppa after but Carol, Jim and cameraman Simon decided to leave to give Jim’s voice a chance to recover. They are due to head home today, weather permitting. You would never think it from the sky in the above pic but a right good storm has whipped up here overnight … so hope they do get going.

The programmes will be shown on CNN International next week, the one including agriculture on the Wednesday, either at 9am or 9pm. I will post up link when it comes available.

Welcome to Winter


For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 

A time to be born and a time to die. 

A time to plant and a time to harvest. 


(Ecclesiastes 3)

Even for those who are not very religious would have to admit that The Bible says an awful lot of good stuff. That could be because those who wrote it had some sort of divine inspiration … or just that they were very astute observers of the world and its ills.


Here in this island we have just had our sunniest summer in decades but, though Winter may have officially have arrived yesterday, it has been making its presence felt these past three weeks. Temperatures remain relatively high, (we are still getting fresh raspberries every day!) have been easing but, as usual in Ireland, its the arrival of the rain that really heralds the changing of the season. 


Then, last evening, much to Robin’s horror, when myself and the girls were out “riding” the little fat pony Rosie, the first Whooper swans of the season flew just feet over our heads. They come here from their Icelandic breeding grounds when winter arrives there; its not often that visitors come to Ireland for the weather! Sorry no pic, camera safe at home.

During the summer we loved the long sunny days and being outdoors well into the late evening.  Now, during the shortening days and watery sunshine of the Halloween break we have been harvesting some of our bumper crops of apples; we then race indoors for some warming food and snuggle down around a nice wood fire. We are well ready for it … and love it just as much.


Going global ???

Going global ???

Four weeks ago we launched our book A Year on Our Farm. After that we were interviewed by Damien O’Reilly for RTE 1 Radio 1’s very popular CountryWide programme. Then it was on to the Ploughing where we sold 330 books and about half those who bought mentioned that they had heard us on CountryWide.
So there I was on Friday night when I noticed that CountryWide had posted a link about Damien being interviewed by Trent Loos, the Voice of Rural America whose Loos Tales programme is aired on over 100 stations and who has 3m listeners on air and on-line. Thinking that it would be interesting to hear Damien on the other side of the table as it were, I clicked the link.
Damien did really well talking about Irish farming and our grass-based beef production and the thought was running gosh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to get a mention in this company when suddenly I nearly fell off the chair …. Have a listen !!!

You know the year is drawing in when …..

The Ploughing is over and the Pumpkins are harvestedImage

Every year on the land is different and no year goes by without its challenges. Last year, it was the seemingly never-ending rain, this year it was the drought, in Spring, again in Summer and, amazingly, once more now in the middle of Autumn. We have had a blast of Indian summer over the past couple of weeks, strawberries and roses are back in flower …. As to where this means we are going and where it will end is another matter entirely, lets just enjoy it for now.

Ballacolla has always tried to claim that the Ploughing came of age on its first visit here in 1995 … and it did … but Ratheniska now has the honour of hosting its biggest ever attendance, of over 100,000, on the Wednesday. What a testament to the NPA but more so to the people of Ireland, to their resilience and enthusiasm and zest for life.

Business was done, friendships were renewed and new ones made as the harsh national economic realities were parked for a few (“short” is the word which sounds like it should be used here but they were far from it) days.

For our own part, the Farming Independent allowed us to set up camp on their stand to sell our book A Year on our Farm. Loads of people had heard us interviewed on RTE1 radio’s Countrywide programme with Damien O’Reilly or seen the fantastic review on the Farming Independent. While we were delighted with the sales what was even more heartening was the goodwill shown to us; Irish people do not give praise lightly but, when they do, they mean it. One woman had kept a daily diary for over 30 years, another couple had been taking in students for just as long; these and other stories were a joy to hear.

Sarah (pictured) took a day off school to join us on the stand while six-year-old Ruth did likewise … though she was far more interested in spending money and the array of goods was never ending. I just wish I could go back when it was all a bit quieter; still I did manage to get a couple of gorgeous scarves for myself and some early Christmas presents.

The nights are now starting to draw in and everyone has returned from whence they came, with pockets depleted but spirits enriched.