A GROUP of 15 Carbery farmers have recently graduated from UCC with a diploma in environmental science and social policy.
The farmers are part of a group of 38 in total, since the launch of an innovative, first-of-its-kind partnership with UCC, to have achieved this diploma through what is called the retrospective prior learning mechanism.
The partnership with UCC came about in 2017 when a pilot project with a group of farmers from the Carbery Greener Dairy Farms programme was launched.
The goal was to ensure the practical learnings that farmers have taken from Carbery’s Greener Dairy programme were being academically recognised by UCC in what’s known as recognition of prior learning, or RPL.
Under this process, UCC recognises the competencies, experience and skills learned by farmers who participated in the project.
The farmers are awarded over 60% of the credits needed for UCC’s level 7 diploma in environmental science and social policy.
Farmers are then given the option by UCC to achieve the remaining credits needed for the diploma in a more formal learning environment.
Enda Buckley, director of sustainability at Carbery said: ‘To date, 38 of our farmer suppliers have completed that course and been awarded diplomas by UCC.
‘It really gives those farmers huge confidence in themselves for what they have achieved. And for us, it shows that our farmers are well ahead of the curve in terms of being interested in, and educated about, what it is to farm sustainably.’
Belinda Gascoigne, who manages the programme for UCC, added: ‘Through the RPL process, UCC has been able to highlight and validate the tremendous work that the farmers have completed in making their farms both more sustainable and profitable.
‘Key achievements in their farming careers are now certified in an NFQ level 7 programme.’
All graduates are also participants in Carbery’s Greener Dairy Farming programme, launched in 2012.
This is an innovative, dairy efficiency programme designed to measure, monitor and optimise resource allocation and best practice on farm.
The primary objective was to introduce efficiencies and improve environmental sustainability on Carbery milk supplier’s farms.
Initially, a group of 12 dairy farms took part in the programme. Over the years, this has risen to 70.
Through the programme – Ireland’s first model for delivering best practice in sustainable dairy farming – Carbery farmers have been able to measure carbon, water and energy footprints at an individual farm level, as well as support on soil and nutrient management and water quality.
Funded and organised by Carbery, by educating farmers on the importance of sustainable dairy production, they have been supported to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions as well as increasing awareness of the importance of managing water use.
The programme was a precursor to many of the principles now in the Teagasc MACC curve (to reduce farm emissions).
It was also the genesis for some of the approaches being trialled as part of Carbery’s groundbreaking Farm Zero C project.
Participants in the programme have seen a 15% reduction in the carbon footprint of those farms.
CGDF has also shown that for every one litre of milk produced on those farms it takes just 6.5 litres of water to produce it.
In other countries, the figure for water footprint would be multiples of 6.5.
Carbery are now taking applications for participants for next year’s programme. Any of their suppliers who are interested are encouraged to get in touch with any member of the Carbery sustainability team.
GRADUATES IN THE UCC DIPLOMA
Participants in the programme included many from Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird Co-ops:
John Joe O’Sullivan; Sean Deasy; Darragh Kennedy; Cormac O’Keefe; Cyril Draper; Gerard Lehane; John J McNamara; Glenn Forde; John Hurley; Thomas Griffin; Padraig Hayes; Norman Tuthill; Donal O’Connor; James Fitzpatrick; Sam Kingston and Aidan McCarthy.
Laurence Sexton; Denis O’Donovan; Tim Sexton; James Hurley; Andrew Whelton; Marguerite Crowley and Martin Coleman.
Carmel Keohane; Owen O’Brien; Jessica Hawkes; Vanessa O’Connor; John Ian Kingston; Caroline Walsh; Jer O’Brien; Eamonn Ryan; Peter Fleming; Brendan Brady; Diarmuid Manning; Tadhg O’Mahony; Michael Nyhan; Micheal O’Mahony and Dermot O’Leary.