Building success on strong relationship with the land

Building success on strong relationship with the land
May 2024
Bronagh Loughlin

Bronagh Loughlin ⬤ Author

Journalist and columnist
Collaborative content with

Agriculture is intertwined with nature, and to ensure long-term production, it is vital to adopt practices that keep the soil and surrounding ecosystems healthy.

As a family business located in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in Ireland, Slaney Farms has built a reputation for producing high-quality potatoes and leading the way in sustainability under the management of John Stafford and colleagues, led by Farm Manager Ed Tobin since it was established in 1996.

They run their operation on 1,000 acres of land with a fully integrated potato processing system, from planting, growing, and harvesting through to marketing and distribution.

Kylie Doran, Senior Sales Administrator at Slaney Farms, proudly shares: “Our farm operates under the Sustainable Horticulture Scheme. Since 2016, 100% sustainably sourced and recycled paper has been used, and we have reduced the plastic microns in packaging by 20% and the plastic microns in pallet wrap by 52%.

We have measures in our manufacturing process to reduce energy, improve overall vehicle efficiency, reduce general waste, and increase recycling. We also have a rainwater harvesting, recycling, and conservation system in place.‚ÄĚ

John Stafford, Managing Director, Slaney Farms

She assures that sustainability is deeply important to Slaney Farms and that the business is committed to opening its eyes to new things and measuring what practices it already has in place to best navigate a path for its farmers and producers to maintain productivity and profitability while embracing practices to protect soils and habitats that enable them to provide fantastic Irish produce.

Kylie says: ‚ÄúFor the past 15 years, we have practised minimum tillage in conjunction with cover cropping. We are dedicated cereal and potato growers and we have seen the benefits of incorporating organically produced Irish seaweed in the nutritional growing plan for both its potato and cereal crops.‚ÄĚ

Slaney Farms became an Origin Green member in 2017, an initiative run by Bord Bia to empower sustainable farming practices.

Since then, they have set targets in several different business areas, including supplier certification, packaging, energy, fuel, waste, and community engagement.

Managing Director John Stafford says: ‚ÄúWe are immensely proud of the targets and goals that have been achieved through the scheme, and we feel the Origin Green journey has helped build on the sustainability measures Slaney Farms has aimed to achieve in the past, the present, and into the future.‚ÄĚ

Slaney Farms has achieved gold status for their Origin Green for the last number of years. Image: Slaney Farms

In recognition of their work, they also won first place in the ‚ÄėExcellence in Sustainability‚Äô category of the Wexford Chamber Business Awards 2023.

Slaney Farms has recently begun utilising the farm building roof space with solar power.

Kylie explains: ‚ÄúThe efficiency of how we use energy is very important, and we have just completed a ‚ÄúGreen energy audit‚ÄĚ through the Local Enterprise Office Wexford. This has allowed us to highlight some changes that we can make, such as converting some of our lighting over to LED, assessing our insulation and carrying out leak tests on our fridge units.‚ÄĚ

Plans for their field practices are changing slightly as well. They recently switched their cover cropping mix to produce higher levels of biomass and also retain N levels in the soil through the use of legumes. They expect to see gains in soil structure and nutrient retention with this change.

Kylie says: “The continued use of crop rotation with root crops, cereals, and cover crop mix has allowed us to reduce our chemical fertiliser, weed control, and disease control applications and rates. Building on this has been vital to our business and sustainability goals.

We expect to see a reduction of approximately 25% for fertiliser this season through this and a significant reduction in our chemical applications to crops.‚ÄĚ

Aerial view of Slaney Farms based in Co. Wexford, Ireland. Image: Slaney Farms

Speaking on one measure food producers could implement to enact meaningful change and drive the green transition, Kylie cannot understate the value of embracing the changes in cropping and cropping practices to align with the ever-changing climate.

She emphasises the importance of addressing social and environmental sustainability.

Kylie explains: ‚ÄúSocial sustainability and the role we play in our wider community is central to our plans. Since 1996, we have sponsored the local Davidstown/ Courtnacuddy GAA club. We also donate regularly to staff-related charities and events and also local community events.‚ÄĚ

She adds: ‚ÄúThrough an annual donation to VITA in Ethiopia (an Irish development partner that supports farmers and communities in Africa to facilitate thriving rural climate-smart economies), we help support communities further afield.‚ÄĚ

Recognising the importance of a healthy local economy to the community and its people, Slaney Farms strives to support local suppliers, building relationships with them and sourcing more local fruit and vegetables from them each year.

Annually, they support local Wexford strawberry growers by sourcing over half a million euros worth of strawberries for their Slaney brand to supply large retail multiples across the country.

Bronagh Loughlin

Bronagh Loughlin ⬤ Author

Journalist and columnist