Bernard ‘Bernie’ Duffy
Sheep and Fodder
1. Bernie’s Background
Bernie is farming an enterprise of Sheep and Fodder for market; he is participating in the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) scheme and also works as the Farmer Liaison Officer on the European Innovation Partnership in Agriculture (EIP-Agri) project FarmPEAT, where he acts as the link between the farmers and the project team. Through engagement with these schemes, Bernie’s farming practices have allowed his farm to go beyond in providing environmental services such as biodiversity, carbon capture and clean water.
2. Taking the Reins
In 1992, Bernie became the third-generation farmer on the family farm in Toughereen, Co. Kildare. His parents ran a mixed enterprise that comprised of cattle, sows, sheep, horses, and goats. Various small enterprises thrived on the farm, including the sale of eggs, seasonal vegetables, root crops, and the production of mangels for animal fodder.
30 years on, Bernie, now married, lives off the farm in nearby Kildare Town with his family. He manages the same 48-acre of land his parents and grandparents once worked on. In times past, he converted the farm to dairy production and then later turned his attention to fattening store lambs and hay production which is now his farm’s main activities.
3. An Evolving Farm
As years progressed, Bernie faced challenges and decided to embrace change. With Bernie’s wife working as a teacher, there is a living to be made with the shared income, but worries about “succession, climate change, and the farm’s profitability” persist.
“As time passes, my thoughts turn to the next generation and the passing of the baton. I like to think that my son will have the time and interest to manage the land and have a career.”
4. FarmPEAT – A new lease of life
In recent years, Bernie has participated in the FarmPEAT EIP-Agri project as both a participant farmer and as the project’s Farmer Liaison Officer. In this role, through peer-to-peer learning, he disseminated valuable information to fellow farmers, assisted in project events, trained others on farm sustainability scoring, and led soil sampling across all project sites.
“I often feel I am in the unique position of being the only farmer in the room. My role is to talk to farmers about the changes that are coming and how to adapt. While representing the views of farmers to policy in particular the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”
Bernie presented to the European conference on “The Restoration of Fens and their Economic Potential” in November 2023. The conference was hosted by the Brandenburg Academy in cooperation with Go-Grass and MarginUp. Reflecting on the event, Bernie stated,
“Through FarmPEAT, we are positively engaging with farmers, this is in comparison to other member states where farmer engagement is not seen as a priority. The project is an innovative way of engaging farmers in carbon capturing.”
5. What CAP means to Bernie
Bernie’s ability to draw-down funding from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), allows him to continue as a farmer and retain his traditional farming practices. This in turn has allowed him to remain as a valuable member of his local community and affect positive change on the environment as a farmer on the frontline pushing back against climate change.
As an ever-evolving farmer, Bernie is continually learning and sharing his knowledge with his peers and tackles climate change in a place he calls home.
“It is important that there is a place going forward for smaller holdings that will keep family farms as part of the fabric of rural Ireland. Without this connection a lot of farming heritage will disappear as will the intimate knowledge of the land and how best to manage it.”
6. The Future of Bernie’s Farm
While we walked Bernie’s farm, he gave a farmer’s perspective on how change needs to be embraced and explained further on the challenges that are being faced within the farming sector. He has developed his knowledge over the years and although he is not part of additional schemes, he is prepared for future CAP schemes coming down the line. He stated that he is considering evolving his enterprise by entering other schemes such as the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS). Bernie can now better identify the challenges and opportunities facing his farm in the future thanks to his time spent participating in an EIP-Agri project. The tools given to him and the confidence he has gained in his own abilities and how he can effect change has helped him cross the threshold into a landscape with many possibilities and opportunities. This is the same threshold he hopes other farmers will cross with him through the peer-to-peer mentorship and bottom-up approach that EIP-Agri projects offer.
Bernie retains his views and stays connected with his land, walking it daily and rolling through each seasonal cycle.
“I still bale with the trusty New Holland 370 that my father bought in 1981 and the neighbours still come to stack the small square bales each summer.”
There is however one eye continually on the future, and for Bernie and many farmers like him, the days ahead look that bit brighter.
To learn more about Bernie’s role in the FarmPEAT project, visit farmpeat.ie.