Social Farming Ireland – Eadaoin O’Connell

Last summer we interviewed Eadaoin O’Connell, who is the regional development officer for Social Farming Ireland in the Southwest of Ireland.


Social Farming Ireland is an initiative that sees activities being offered on family run farms as a form of social support. The interview took place on an Irish Hereford Prime members farm, that of Geoff and Celia Brighten in County Limerick.


“I would say that Social farming is a ‘win win’ situation, in that participants get a chance to get out on ordinary working family farms, they experience what farming is like and they make social connections within their communities. Equally the farmer gets a chance to give back to their community and meet others within their community that might have different life experiences to them.

We start with a placement one day a week for eight to twelve weeks. At the end of that period the placement is reviewed. Then we can either extend the placement, making it a long more enduring placement or people can decide to move on to their next goal, which could be further training or employment or education.

Farmers can get involved in the training which is usually about 2-3 days. As a development officer I’ve been able to see the benefits that people get from the placements. I’ve seen people who have settled into the farms and become part of the family, they’ve stayed there for two or three years on a long-term placement, going a few times a week, every week.

That’s something that is really nice to see; when you come out to visit and you see people getting involved and becoming part of that family farm. For example, Celia and Geoffrey have a participant who has been on their farm for a little over two years and they have built up such a great relationship with him. This individual was originally with a mental health service and is still supported by that service, but coming out to the farm is a huge part of his week and has actually become a huge part of his life.

If there is anyone who is interested in getting involved in social farming, whether you’re a farmer or a 2 from this service, reach out, get in contact and just have a chat with us. We can answer any questions you have about what is involved.”


According to Niall O’Mahony, Chair of Irish Hereford Prime, “rewarding farmers who produce the right type of cattle at the right time is crucial for both our members viability and that of our brand in the marketplace. The increasing demands for product with high sustainability credentials puts our beef in a very good place due to the Hereford breeds natural early maturing and easy fleshing abilities. Finishing Hereford cattle at a younger age is clearly what the market requires, and with the Hereford breed traits excel at this”.

The Hereford Beef Sustainability programme in conjunction with Dovea Genetics is beginning to show real potential. To date there have been five Hereford bulls selected and tested through the ICBF Gene Ireland Dairy Beef Programme and these bulls are available commercially to all suckler and dairy farmers via Dovea Genetics. The breeding policy of the program makes easy calving, short gestation Hereford bulls available to meet the huge demand at farm level, while also ensuring high terminal carcass performance to deliver a Hereford beef animal that continues to achieve targeted improvements.

The producer group recognises that an increase in the rate of genetic gain is linked to profitability, sustainability, and climate efficiency. A reduction in the age at slaughter while maintaining animal daily liveweight gain will ensure lower overall methane emissions per kilogram of beef produced, thereby strengthening the sustainability pillar on which the Irish Hereford Prime brand is built.