The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has said that he is keen to see if climate and sustainability solutions being employed on west Kerry farms could be used elsewhere.

During a recent two-day visit to the county, the minister met those involved in the Corca Dhuibhne 2030 initiative.

The initiative is running several community projects aiming to help the Dingle Peninsula to transition to a low-carbon community by 2030.

Minister Ryan launched documents outlining the learnings from two projects at the Dingle Hub and also visited two farms in the region.

“I learned there’s a lot of good work going on down in Kerry and I’m interested in if we could go further and apply it elsewhere,” he told Agriland.

The minister said that he wanted to get income into farms, while cutting down on spiralling input costs.

“It’s being smart and it’s being enterprising in our farms and working collectively,” he added.

Agriland joined Minister Eamon Ryan on his visits to the farms of Michael O’Dowd in Castlemaine and Dinny Galvin in Lispole, which you can see more of by clicking on the video below.

Cows, bees and apple trees

Michael O’Dowd, his wife Sandra and their five children run a mixed enterprise in Ballycrispin, close to Castlemaine.

Along with milking 40 cows, the O’Dowd family has an orchard from which they produce ‘Ring of Kerry Apple Juice’ which is sold in local shops.

They also collect and sell honey from bee hives on the farm, along with rearing and processing turkeys and chickens.

The farm is among ten participants in Corca Dhuibhne 2030’s Creative Climate Action Project.

It is examining creative ways in which farmers on the Dingle peninsula can diversify their enterprises to address climate change.

Michael O’Dowd shows Minister Eamon Ryan the apple trees in his orchard. Image: Domnick Walsh

The O’Dowd family discussed the challenges facing farmers from climate change with Minister Ryan and demonstrated how diversification can be part of the solution while also supplementing their income.

“There is room for the smaller dairy farm. There doesn’t seem to be much talk about that anymore, it’s all dairy expansion,” Michael told Agriland.

“I feel that there is room for the likes of us as well.”

He also used the opportunity to discuss the future for the next generation of farmers with Minister Ryan.

O’Dowd said that young farmers completing the Teagasc Green Cert programme should have an opportunity to gain experience on all types of farms, not only dairy enterprises.

Dairy technology

Following the visit to Castlemaine, Minister Ryan continued his journey on a TLI ‘Local Link’ bus to the dairy and sheep farm of Dinny Galvin in Lispole.

Dinny is the founder of the West Kerry Dairy Farmers’ Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) which includes 130 farmers. He also works with the Dingle Hub as an energy and agriculture liaison officer.

Dinny Galvin explaining the technology in his dairy parlour to Minister Eamon Ryan

His farm has been involved in several Corca Dhuibhne 2030 energy projects and Minister Ryan was shown how technology can help with efficiencies on farms.

This includes a mobile phone app outlining how much energy is being used by equipment and sensors placed in fields to monitor grass growth.

“Back in 2013, well before any SEC, I installed a heat exchanger down on the farm. That takes the heat from the cooling process of the milk and converts it to water. That has saved me thousands of euro over that period of time in electricity,” Galvin said.

“This morning, I have 500L of water at 55°, that’s all heat that would be lost to the atmosphere and going to waste. That could be deployed on every dairy farm in the country, it would make a massive difference,” he explained.

Galvin said that farmers should be able to install solar panels on the roofs of their farm buildings and sell the excess electricity generated back to the grid. This, he said, is another way farmers can “pull down our carbon footprint”.