Organic Berries grown in the West Cork Mountains using Regenerative Agriculture Techniques

Steve & Claire Collins, Derry Duff Farm

Steve with his Organic Cattle Herd

Derry Duff is a 54-hectare farm, established in 2008 and located by the wild Atlantic Ocean. Steve and Claire integrated regenerative practices into their farm from the start and attained organic status in 2010 due to the mandatory 2-year conversion period. Regenerative Agriculture is similar to Organic Farming in many ways, as it uses no chemical inputs such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Regenerative Farming is a term for a range of sustainable farming practices that farmers can implement on their land, with a large focus on improving the health of the soil, biodiversity, nutrient cycling, water quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Blueberry bush in bloom

Derry Duff is unlike other Irish farms, as their main crops are organic Blueberries and Aronia Berries, both grown for their nutritional properties. Once harvested, the berries are made into health food products and drinks. The rugged mountainous landscape of the Derry Duff West Cork farm is unique, filled with native species such as heather, birch and alder. Steve and one other worker permanently farm, with temporary volunteers coming to stay and help for a few months at a time.

Rows of Aronia bushes thriving on the hilly landscape

Derry Duff farm is certified with the Irish Organic Association and they abide by a range of sustainable farming practices. Instead of using chemical nitrogen fertilizer, clover and herbs have been mixed into grass swards to fixate nitrogen naturally. They use no pesticides or herbicides so weeding is done manually. Native trees and shrubs have been planted around the edges of several small ponds, to act as an absorption layer between the paddocks and the water, reducing the risk of pollution to the water.

Dexter Cow roaming the diverse rugged landscape

Derry Duff is home to many animals, with a small herd of 18 organic dexter cattle who roam the wild mountainous landscape alongside the chickens. Derry Duff excellently integrates animals with the land, ensuring that their animals benefit, rather than harm, the environment. The farm also has a Tree Nursery and Steve and Claire are experimenting with Agroforestry; whereby native trees are planted within grazing land to provide nutrients for the soil and shelter for the animals.

Happy chicken grazing around the young apple orchard

An apple orchard of 80 trees is inhabited by free range chickens, who roam around the young apple trees. This integration of animals with trees is a feature of Regenerative Agriculture. For example, the chicken scratches around the radius of the trees, keeping the area clear from weeds, as well as providing precious natural fertilizer!

Steve and Claire’s goal since starting their farm was to make it more beautiful, and to do so in a way that was in harmony with the hills and natural landscape. Steve’s knowledge of regenerative agriculture was entirely self-taught and refined through trial-and-error. Steve believes that much of regenerative farming is “common sense”, and he enjoyed this trial-and-error that came with implementing regenerative practices, coming from a scientific background himself.

Overview of Derry Duff Farm with Blueberries, Aronia berries & Agroforestry

Steve has seen a variety of benefits from Regenerative Agriculture, such as:

  • Economic benefits: they can market their products as higher quality than standard.
  • Land management: the cattle aid in the management of the tricky hilly landscape.
  • Improved soil: the Aronia plant has deep roots that penetrate the clay subsoil which promotes nutrient cycling and regenerates the soil.
  • Increased Biodiversity: due to diverse habitats, wildlife corridors, and no destructive farming practices on the farm.

There were a few downsides for Steve, such as the manual work from weeding by hand and a lack of funding for Regenerative Agriculture practices. Overall, Regenerative Agriculture is working excellently for Steve and Claire’s farm, and they intend to explore further regenerative practices into the future.

To find Derry Duff farm online, click on the link: Derry Duff Farm