The sunshine and, indeed, the people, were out in force at the ‘Hemp4Soil Farm Walk’ in Carrigaholt, Loop Head, at the weekend, as many travelled from all over the country, to learn more about the potential benefits of using Hemp as a ‘regenerative crop’ on farms.
Loop Head is leading the way, in piloting this experiment – Hemp4Soil – which is the first multiple-licensed, Government supported, project of its kind in Europe, to explore the use of HEMP as a regenerative farming crop – and looking, in detail, at the many potential benefits, for the environment, the land and the farmer.
Exploring how hemp will potentially improve soil quality, enhance local biodiversity and further the efforts of carbon sequestration on farms, the Hemp4Soil project also aims to explore the creation of sustainable income streams for farmers, which may even pave the way towards the introduction of sustainable local, industries in the future.
With people travelling to the Farm Walk on Saturday from as far as Bundoran, Fermoy, Kerry, Laois, Mayo, Wexford, Waterford, Galway and of course various parts of Clare, to walk a farm on the Loop Head peninsula, it was abundantly clear that there is a real nationwide appetite to learn more about how Hemp could be, in fact, a hugely important crop for the Agri-industry and rural communities going forward.
Hemp4Soil is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) project being administered by local community group ‘Loop Head Together’ and facilitated by Carrigaholt Development Association, Co. Clare. (The project is funded by the EU Recovery Instrument Funding under the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2022.)
Leading the project are Laura Foley MSc and her husband Daniel Lyons, MSc. With a strong background in the hemp industry, this dynamic couple are eager for the wider agricultural community to be a part of this exciting mission.
“We were thrilled with the attendance and interest shown by farmers who travelled from all around the country to attend the Hemp4Soil Farm Walk” said project lead, Laura Foley. “It is a real indication of the interest in regenerative farming to improve soil health and reduce the use of artificial amendments. We hope, with the support of the Department of Agriculture, to continue investigating those improvements to soil health and the carbon sequestration potential of cultivating hemp. We are so grateful to the farmers who have participated in this experiment”
Also working alongside the couple in gathering the essential data, is Dr Kate Randall, University of Essex, Dr Carol Melody, Teagasc and Dr Lena Madden – Research Development Officer and Principal Investigator at Technical University of the Shannon (TUS) – Midwest.
The experiment was rolled out in conjunction with 10 local farmers each of whom, kindly provided an acre of their land to facilitate this gathering of data. For the results of the experiment to be accurate, the project team had to be as exact as possible in applying the treatments consistently across the ten farms. The gathering of data began before the first sod was turned and will continue until the crops have been harvested.
At the Farm Walk on Saturday, people were invited to the picturesque setting of Sheehy’s Farm in Carrigaholt, where they were taken through the Hemp crop, now tall, strong, and ripe for harvesting. Here, attendees were talked through the various treatments used in the experiment, the range of potential benefits and the many end-uses for the crop itself.
Farmer Hugh Sheehy gave an account as to his experience of tending to the crop followed by Daniel and Laura facilitating an in-depth ‘questions and answers’ session with the interested crowd. Attendees were brought to an informative display including samples of potential end uses for the Hemp plant – and afterwards were treated to teas and sandwiches in Keane’s Bar, Carrigaholt, where the information sharing continued.
With the help and support of local community groups ‘Loop Head Together’ and ‘Carrigaholt Development Association’, this local experiment has the potential to put the Loop Head Peninsula, (already the pilot decarbonizing zone for Clare County Council) firmly on the map in terms of climate initiatives and sustainable local development.
“One of the best things about this peninsula, is its people and their unwavering commitment to working together in the name of sustainability and local development” said Liz Greehy, a representative of Community group, ‘Loop Head Together’. “The Hemp4Soil experiment is a perfect example of that strong community spirit. We were delighted to be able to help facilitate this project and are excited to see where it goes next”.
To learn more about this experiment, or indeed to be kept informed of the final findings, go to www.loopheadtogether.ie