Combines 4 Charity: Inspired by Australian farmers; embraced by the Irish tillage sector

Inspiration for Combines 4 Charity came to tillage farmer, Philip Brady, from ‘Down Under’.

The 32-year-old farmer from Kildalkey, Co. Meath, was watching YouTube footage of combine harvesters in April 2009, and became intrigued by a group of 56 Australian farmers who had set a world record with 56 combines working together in one field.

“I thought this would be a fantastic way to make some money for charity and show the generosity of the tillage sector,” said Philip. “So after a bit of badgering, my dad, Tony, agreed that it was a good idea.

“A meeting was organised and attended by: Ronan Lynch, an agronomist with Deeside Agri; Cyril Darcy, an agricultural advisor; Peter Timmons of Meath Farm Machinery, who is also a tillage farmer; tillage farmers John Mc Donnell; Michael Kiernan; Micheal Lawlor; and Joe Donoghue, as well as my dad and I,” he said.

Bringing the idea to Ireland

“After some discussion, a couple of sites were picked, and we decided to have 100 combines cutting 100ac in August 2009.

“This was to fundraise for four charities: Barnardos; the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire; the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre, Drogheda; and Self Help Africa. We also agreed to recruit some more people to come on board.

The result was a world record of 186 combines working together and a massive €300,000 raised on the day.

“This achievement was made possible by the generosity of the combine owners who raised in excess of €1,000 each,” Philip said.

He also praised others who made the event such a success: “Gerry Curran of Platin Grain provided a fantastic site; and our sponsors – especially FBD insurance, which came on board as our main sponsor for all our events and has supported us with insurance cover and sponsorship to date.

“Following the event, 10 members of the committee – Cyril Darcy, Joe O’Donoghue, Frank Hemeryck, Michael Kiernan, Michael Lawlor, Ronan Lynch, Peter Timmons, Eoin Reilly, my dad and I – decided to stay together and run it in our spare time on a purely voluntary basis and what a pastime it has become,” he said.

Thinking big

In 2010 Combines 4 Charity, which is based at Staleen, Donore, Co. Louth, held a massive raffle with a John Deere 6830 as first prize.

The following year it entered a 10-year share farming agreement on 100ac farm where members do all work free of charge, with some inputs sponsored. All profits go to the charities.

In 2012, another world record event was held as 204 combines worked together on Gerry Curran’s land in Platin, Drogheda.

“In 2013 as Self Help no longer existed, its annual quarter share was distributed by the 10 members to worthy causes. To date the committee members have shared €50,000 to local and national charities,” said Philip.

Last year, Combines 4 Charity organised a ‘Great Grass’ gathering where a record of 104 forage harvesters working together was set. This event was hosted by the O’Sullivan family, Kiltale, in a 120ac grass field.

Philip said the response to all the fundraising has been encouraging.

“We have great sponsors and supporters including the chemical companies, led by BASF, that supply sprays free of charge.

Combines 4 charity

“Those who sow and harvest the crops and attend the events have helped us to raise a total of almost €700,000 for charity. A lot of people also help out behind the scenes,” he said.

“It’s just breathtaking to be part of the events and to see people travelling from counties like Donegal to take part,” Philip said.

It’s also fantastic to see exactly where the money goes. We don’t just hand over cheques; we want to see where the money is being spent and that spurs us on to do more fundraising.

The current chairperson of the committee is tillage farmer, Joe O’Donoghue, from Stanmullen. “This year we are considering organising a barn dance,” Philip said. “Next year is our tenth anniversary and we hope to organise something special for that.”