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Farming: More than a Living - Origin Green farmer interview
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Farming: More than a Living - Origin Green farmer interview

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‘‘Farming is more than a living, it’s a way of life’’ says Richard Hogg who farms 170 acres of grassland and forestry in Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny. His farm is a mix of sheep-to-lamb and suckler-to-beef
‘‘Farming is more than a living, it’s a way of life’’ says Richard Hogg who farms 170 acres of grassland and forestry in Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny. His farm is a mix of sheep-to-lamb and suckler-to-beef

Richard Hogg, Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny

‘‘Sheep have outperformed cattle per acre in the last number of years,’’ he says. ‘‘A mix of enterprises on the farm not only has benefits for grassland management and parasite control, but it’s also a way of spreading your risk and not having all your eggs in one basket.’’

But it’s not only the cattle and sheep that co-exist on the farm. Richard and his wife Avril and their two children Ella (13) and William (11) are the fourth generation of the family to live on the land. Richard’s parents John and Audrey still live across the yard.

Richard took over the farm in 1997, having completed a year in Kildalton Agricultural College and farmed alongside his father for a few years.

‘‘A good education is one thing’’ he says, ‘‘but you also need to work alongside someone. Farming is about constantly evolving and working out what is best for the farm right now. Dad was a genius at making things and keeping things going on the farm. I’m more animal-orientated. We’ve worked well together and I rely on him for advice and an opinion I trust.’’

Seven years ago, Richard took the decision to plant 25 acres of forestry on the wetter parts of his farm. He saw it as the best use of land that would otherwise have required considerable investment.

‘‘I can see what the trees bring in terms of biodiversity to the farm and it’s also something to hand down to the next generation.’’

Irish farmers who are certified members of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance schemes and who participate in a farm sustainability survey as part of the audit process, are part of Origin Green.

But to Richard, being sustainable is also about making a living. ‘‘The smallest of efficiencies can help financially. Taking part in the Origin Green programme provided a way of measuring and improving at the same time.’’

Management

In particular, Richard focuses on achieving efficiencies in grass management.

He does this by maximising grass quality, minimising waste and constantly soil testing and getting reseeding right.

‘‘You’re always trying to optimise your own resources to get the stock outdoors for longer in order to bring down your emissions and reduce the amount of slurry produced.’’

He also believes that sustainability is about the small things you do that all add up. He describes switching to energy-efficient bulbs, turning off lights whenever possible and heating the house with his own timber.

A particularly positive experience for Richard has been taking part in a farmer-led discussion group that meets every month.

‘‘They’re a very progressive and positive group of farmers that share advice and new ideas. I’d advise anyone, particularly young farmers, to get involved in something similar.’’

It’s clear that continuing to learn and evolve is very important to Richard Hogg. ‘‘There’s always someone doing it better than you’’ he says ‘‘and there’s always more to be learned and new improvements to be made’’.

Proud to be part of Origin Green

Sustainability is now part of the entry criteria in every sector and every marketplace in which the Irish food industry competes. Bord Bia’s Origin Green is the only sustainability programme in the world to operate at a national scale, showcasing Irish produce in global and home markets. Origin Green verified members account for more than 90% of Ireland’s total food and drink exports.

Irish farmers who are certified members of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance schemes and who participate in a farm sustainability survey as part of the audit process, are part of Origin Green.

Bord Bia’s Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) is the world’s first national dairy sustainability scheme, allowing dairy farmers to measure their continuous improvement of efficiencies and sustainability practices.

Bord Bia also recently launched the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS), expanding the well-established Quality Assurance standards to include sustainability criteria.

At farm level, the Origin Green sustainability programme now operates across the Irish dairy, beef and lamb sectors with plans to broaden it to pigmeat, poultry, eggs, horticulture and grain.

Preserving the farm for the future

Origin Green farmers are discovering that the efficiencies that come from farming sustainably and caring for the environment, have benefits in terms of preserving their farm and land for future generations as well as contributing to the profitability of their farm enterprise.

For details, visit www.bordbia.ie/farmersorigingreen

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