Oliver Moore: Walk and learn all over the country

Organic farm walks are a great way for budding growers and farmers to learn about running an organic enterprise. 
Oliver Moore: Walk and learn all over the country

You get to see the farm itself up close and personal, ask relevant questions, and get access to important technical information.

In late August and early September, there are Teagasc organic demonstration walks in Monaghan (Tuesday, August 25, beef and cereals); Mayo (September 1, suckler to beef); Laois (September 11, sheep and cereals); and Wicklow (September 16, field scale veg and sheep).

There are other organic farm walks coming up also — ones where there’s more to see and think about than simply the economics and productivity of the farm.

These are walks that show how a different sort of farm and countryside is possible, while also being great days out for the family. These walks will tap into other economic opportunities — such as social or care farming, eco/heritage/nature tourism.

This month and next, three Camphills open their doors to visitors, and an extremely interesting place near Tipperary town does too. The last one first. At Carnahalla Heritage Centre, Tom and Johanna Coffey farm 100 acres, with 70 acres in one continuous enclosure, much of that forested.

He stocks a very unusual heritage variety called Droimeann, which is rare even by rare breed standards. This is a hardy, dual purpose breed, which can be traced back to Brian Boru times.

It’s the rest of the heritage, however, that makes Carnahalla really stand out. There are over 30 monuments of note including Bronze Age cooking sites, ancient saunas, burial mounds, sacred wells, smelting sites, Bullaun stones, a 50-foot high platform fort, and a 10-acre acoustically charged, heart-shaped amphitheatre.

Such is the range of historical resonance on site that Tom Coffey has donated pieces from the Stone age and Mesolithic periods found on his land to Irish museums.

There are also some of the largest trees in Ireland here, on a site which also features a genuinely ancient woodland, reputedly planted by the Butlers of Ormond soon after the Norman invasion.

According to the Tree Council of Ireland, the hazel and crab trees on site are the largest examples in Ireland.

The site also boasts an impressive, curved, stone heritage centre which can cater for up to 60.

This walk is on this coming Saturday, August 22, 5pm.

Carnahalla is on the Cappamore-Cappawhite road between Doon and Toem. (Phone 086 0663838 for more).

Three Camphill Communities also have events for farmers, the first starting tomorrow, August 21, at Grangebeg in Co Kildare.

There are 18 Camphills in Ireland, residential care homes for people with intellectual disabilities and other special needs. They also have quite large biodynamic farms on site.

People with special needs are integrated into the running of these impressive set ups ,which often have bakeries, shops, and very large vegetable gardens and polytunnels.

Grangebeg’s 46 acres features vegetable gardens, a small herd of cattle, sheep and a few hundred chickens. They are close to being self sufficient, baking their own bread, processing food on site and producing a lot of organic veg, some of which they also sell on.

Twenty people live on site, including 11 with special needs.

The Camphill in Grangemockler (the walk is at 5pm, September 4) is in Co Tipperary, near Carrick-on-Suir. This is a 50-acre farm where they specialise in weaving.

Their farm at Jerpoint, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny (the walk is on September 16 at 6.30pm) does what Camphills typically do, with an extra focus on horse riding.

In each of these Camphill communities, you will encounter a gentle way of life, one that integrates organic farming into everyday, by and for the kindest of people.

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