Tommy Reidy is a sixth-generation beef and sheep farmer who manages a very diverse 100ac holding near Castlegregory in west Kerry.

The Reidys moved here from north Kerry in the early 1850s, taking ownership of a scenic strip of land that literally extends from mountain to seashore.

The resultant, remarkable range of habitats – sand dunes, dune slacks, wet grassland, fens, open water, free-draining pastures and heathy blanket bog – might be an ecologist’s dream, but present plenty of farming challenges. From a positive perspective like Tommy’s, however, opportunities abound.

Tommy, who lives in Tralee and works off-farm, recalls working in a multinational company a number of years ago and chatting with colleagues who, like him, did their farming in the evenings and at weekends. The topic of conversation often revolved around finding models that worked to allow them sustain their ‘grá’ for the land while making a decent living and maintaining a good work-life balance.


It’s a quest that occupies many farmers’ sons and daughters today – farmers at heart who love farming but struggle to make it work financially, often because of farm size, quality, location, fragmentation or other limitations.

Tommy is one such farmer and he has some refreshing insights gained during his own, ongoing quest to spend more time farming and being outdoors.

Tommy took over the farm in 2007. With his professional background in financial management, he was well equipped, and keen, to minimise costs and maximise profits.

Reflecting on the nature of the holding, he decided to ‘pivot’ away from sheep and into organic Dexter beef production. While he still keeps a small (25 to 30 head) hill sheep flock on a 10ha outside holding (beside Ireland’s newest national park, Páirc Náisiúnta na Mara, Ciarraí), his main focus now is minding his herd of 14 suckler cows and their followers, which he finishes on-farm at around 30 months.

Tommy Reidy and Tuck the dog at his farm overlooking Brandon Bay.

Another key management strategy was to exploit the farm’s diverse natural assets.

He has enhanced, and monetised, these through agri-environment schemes, creating ponds for the rare Natterjack toad and installing hedges for shelter and habitat.

The hillside provides rough grazing for cows and calves during summer – helping reduce fuel-loads and fire-risk, earning a ‘result-based payment’ for this and other – ‘ecosystem services’ under ACRES.

Tommy uses the sheltered, free-draining dune slacks to outwinter the breeding cows, freeing up shed space for the finishing cattle. He reseeds his few “good fields” regularly with multispecies swards – some undersown with forage oats and barley – as well as maintaining a red clover sward, producing quality fodder which means he doesn’t buy-in any feed for cattle.

Tommy has also tapped into the prevailing ‘sustainability agenda’, viewing it as a fair wind for part-time farmers like himself – not just in terms of scheme payments, but in the attitudes and appetites of consumers.

Last year, Tommy decided to capitalise on consumer trends by selling his grass-fed organic Dexter beef burgers to festival-goers, enabling him to more than double his profit on each carcase.

Likewise, the combination of spectacular scenery and Tommy’s gift for interpreting it, make a compelling proposition for the ‘eco-conscious’ visitors who regularly book out his newly established B&B.

Tommy Reidy in an old bóithirín, which runs through various sections of his strip of land.

Farmyard eggs, the occasional Dexter steak and a ramble down to where the farm meets Brandon Bay make for a memorable visitor experience.

Guests also take comfort from the knowledge that their dollars help sustain this farm family heritage for another generation. And make no mistake, this is a family enterprise with all hands – parents, partners, siblings, children and neighbours – chipping in to help.

Not relying solely on income from the farm has also allowed Tommy to explore some alternative approaches.

He recently completed a course in Korean Natural Farming and featured on Ear to the Ground for his use of ‘Bokashi’ on his animal bedding (a Japanese fermentation process which Tommy finds dramatically reduces odours, pathogens and animal diseases), drawing huge interest from viewers.


Tommy is no laggard in his use of technology either – for marketing his products and services, also for remote working and learning.

He has recently installed solar PV panels on the shed roof (part of a Dingle Hub initiative) and even deploys drones for herding on occasions, such as when he has to locate calves nestled between the dense tufts of marram grass on the dunes.

It’s great to meet a young farmer so enthusiastic and upbeat about his future on what would be considered a small, challenging, ‘peripheral’ holding.

It’s notable how the experience, creative skills and fresh perspective gained working off-farm has helped Tommy reimagine his farm and his role as farmer – local food producer, habitat manager and visitor host. He is meeting society’s needs, as farmers always have had to do, and is embedding farming more centrally and creatively in the emerging market (public and private) around sustainability.

Tommy’s farming journey is a great case study in how being open-minded, resourceful and relevant can help unlock a farm’s hidden assets and offer a pathway back to the land for young part-time farmers.

Top tips

Tommy (following advice from his neighbour), swears by the old custom of using holly as a treatment against ringworm in cattle. He hangs branches of it in his cattle shed.

Tommy has supported recent restoration efforts for one of Ireland’s rarest creatures, the Natterjack toad.

Learn more

A terrific source of information on this, and Ireland’s other plants and animals, is the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Learn more here.

  • Name: Tommy Reidy.
  • Farm type: beef and lamb.
  • Farm size: 40ha (including 15ha commonage).
  • Focus: finding ways of making the farm work financially so he can spend more time there.
  • Schemes: OFS, ACRES CP, NPWS Natterjack Toad Scheme.