15 Carbery farmers graduated this month with a diploma in environmental science and social policy from University College Cork (UCC).

A total of 38 graduates have achieved this diploma through the retrospective prior learning mechanism (RPL).

Starting with the launch of a pilot project with a group of farmers from the Carbery Greener Dairy Farms programme (CGDF), the partnership with UCC came about in 2017.

The goal was to ensure that practical skills acquired through the programme were being academically recognised by UCC.

Belinda Gascoigne, programme manager for UCC, explained:

“Through the RPL process, UCC has been able to highlight and validate the tremendous work that the farmers have completed in making their farms both more sustainable and profitable.”

Recognising competencies and experience, the farmers are awarded over 60% of the credits needed for UCC’s level 7 diploma in environmental science and social policy.

Farmers are then given the option to achieve the remaining credits needed for the diploma in a more formal learning environment. 

Enda Buckley, director of sustainability at Carbery said:

“It really gives those farmers huge confidence in themselves for what they have achieved. It shows that our farmers are well ahead of the curve in terms of being interested in, and educated about, what it is to farm sustainably.”


All graduates are also participants in Carbery’s CGDF, designed to measure, monitor and optimise resource allocation and best practice on farm.

Launched in 2012 the number of participating dairy farms has risen to 70.

Being Ireland’s first model for delivering best practice in sustainable dairy farming, Carbery farmers have been able to measure carbon, water and energy footprints at an individual farm level, as well as support soil and nutrient management and water quality.

Programme participants recorded a 15% reduction in the carbon footprint of those farms.

Programme facilitators have said that CGDF has also shown that for every 1L of milk produced on those farms it takes just 6.5L of water to produce it, compared to other countries, where the figure would be multiples of 6.5.

Carbery Group

Carbery Group is an international dairy, flavours and nutritional ingredients company headquartered in Ballineen, Co. Cork.

Owned by four Irish co-operatives – Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird – it employs almost 900 people, with 1,215 local farmer suppliers.

Carbery operates from 10 locations including Ireland, the UK, the U.S, Brazil, Italy, Indonesia and Thailand and supplies more than 50 countries worldwide.

Carbery is now taking applications for participants for next year’s programme.