I grew up in a small town, still very attached to its rural history, and the concept of the farm is very familiar. But yet, when we left Tommy Earley’s farm, I was speechless with wonder.

Last Friday, Tommy greeted us to his house and workplace. He takes care of 80 acres of farmland where he keeps cattle, grows plants and restores a bog. And all this work is driven by a profound love for nature.

If we consider the bog, as an example, this is an environment that is not useful for Tommy in terms of benefits or profits, but yet he spends a lot of his time to slow down and eventually stop it from losing water so it can regenerate. All he cares about is protecting this habitat, so peculiar of Ireland and its biodiversity. He showed us where he had to dig and “lose” arable land. He told us how a lot of people say that he is crazy…and honestly? Yes, Tommy is crazy…in love with nature and its wonders.

And, where the soil was removed, he built ponds. Or better, he filled the holes with water and let nature do its best. In this way, he managed to see little ecosystems develop: first plants arrived, then insects, then frogs and finally otters. Again: why would someone bother? But at the ends of the day, knowing that you are making your best efforts to help nature recover pays you back, and that means being sustainable.

One of the many ponds we were able to see

Before the pandemic happened (it seems like centuries ago), Tommy started a community garden to allow people to use the soil and share its products. He told us that a lot of them were neighbours who never spoke to each other, and now they had the opportunity to do so.

At some point Tommy picked up some soil to smell it:

“This smell…I guess everyone finds comfort in a particular smell, and for me this is it”.

And he’s sharing this feeling with his community.

He has totally transformed his land as an organic farm since the end of the 90s. He was one of the first sustainable farmers in this area and is now an example for everybody. I asked him a couple of things about rushes: that could seem weird, but I love botany and their behaviour is very similar to a plant that grows where I live. Farmers fight it with anger and frustration.

I thought that Tommy would share those feelings, instead, his answer was: “Rushes? Oh, I love them! I pick them up, let them dry and then use them as straw for the cattle to lay on. In this way, I’m able to observe the regulations regarding organic farms. Moreover, this plant has a great calorific power and is being studied to use it for heating purposes…it could be very useful”….I’m sorry, what? This person, who manages 80 acres of land all by himself, stopped to understand how to take advantage of this weed that usually people just cut crying their eyes out because there’s too much of it.

In short, last Friday I could see harmony. We are constantly bombarded with images of humans destroying nature with profit as their only goal. And yet, close to our house, we have found someone who is doing their part and is happy to share their world with others.

Sustainable development is not “just a dream”, but something achievable.

It is a means to make peace with Mother Earth and ourselves, a place where time runs slow and where we can realise we can be happy with what seems little but, in reality, it’s true richness.

This is not the only example of Good Practise: Arigna Fuels is another sustainable reality here in Leitrim, and we’ve had the opportunity to visit them as well.