Based in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, which received the Lonely Planet ‘best in travel 2021’ community award, farming couple Stephen and Eva Hegarty are battling climate change, running their microbusiness with Burren Free Range Pork Farm and Burren Glamping.
Stephen took over the running of the 30ac farm that is fragmented into three lots from his parents approximately 25 years ago. They had kept sheep and milked cows, but later gave up the sheep and converted to beef farming. Eva said:
“We still have a small herd of continental beef cattle and since the last 15 years, also free range Saddleback pigs.
“As we are in the Burren and farm in a traditional way, we keep our cattle outdoors all year round and follow the ancient farming tradition of Winterage, when the cattle are brought up to the highlands of the Burren for the winter months,” said Eva, who is from a small town in western Finland.
“In 2015 we decided to diversify with an accommodation offering on the farm. I felt we had to come up with another idea of generating an income.
“Being in an area with a big numbers of tourists – located only 20 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher – we wanted to try and explore agri-tourism. Stephen has already worked part-time as a tour guide of the area for many years.”
The couple bought a vintage horse truck that they converted into a bespoke glamping unit, under the ‘Burren Glamping’ banner.
“Glamping is short for ‘glamorous camping’ which means that you go camping without all the hardships that could be; getting cold and wet,” Eva said.
“The truck is fully insulated and fitted with a wood burning stove, shower and toilet. For breakfast, our guests have the option of either making their own or being served produce from the farm – sausages, rashers etc. – as well as freshly baked scones.
“We have a polytunnel and a garden where we grow vegetables and fruits that are also used for the breakfast table. A brood of hens provides our fresh eggs,” she said.
“The first few years we had a lot of foreign guests, mainly Americans and mainland Europeans, but with Covid-19 the situation has completely changed. Last year we had only Irish families and for this season we are already fully booked with Irish families again.
“At the moment we are waiting to see when we will be able to open as the restrictions aren’t permitting us to do so just yet. It seems like many families are opting for a more down-to-earth and experience-based holiday,” the couple said.
Awareness of Local Food
The couple has found an increased awareness of local food and bigger interest among people to know where their food is sourced.
“As a result, there has been a slight increase in our meat sales. It’s wonderful to see the creativity among the hospitality industry around us, that has come up with many new ways of producing food and takeaway options,” said Eva.
“My passion is in food, and since 2011 we are part of the Burren ecotourism network and the award-winning Burren Food Trail, which published a cook book ‘Burren Dinners’ in 2019,” she said.
“We believe in sustainable farming and don’t use chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
“Climate change is our biggest challenge as the land is getting wetter and wetter every year, and putting pressure on the number of animals that we can feed on the farm. The two main income earners in this area are agriculture and tourism, both of which are adversely affected by the weather.
“We are constantly looking at new ideas for diversifying and further improving the farm, in an environmentally-friendly way,” Eva concluded.