North Tipperary IFA Chairman Baden Powell pictured with one of his mares. hisothe farm.

Campaigning for North Tipp's farmers

Baden Powell, the new Chairman of the North Tipperary branch of the Irish Farmers Association, speaks on his aspirations for his four-year term, his role as a beef producer and his on-farm wind energy project.

Templederry farmer Baden Powell has big shoes to fill in succeeding Barbaha’s Imelda Walsh as Chairperson of the North Tipperary branch of the Irish Farmers Association, but he is certainly up for the job.

Imelda did great work in highlighting the vital contribution made by local farmers in producing high quality food over her four-year term in the chair. But Baden has his own ideas and will make his own distinctive contribution in leading the local IFA branch from now to the end of his term in 2026.

Born into a family that worked the land, Baden, a father of three young boys, runs a 262-acre hill farm at Curraghgraigue, Templederry, where he operates a beef enterprise fattening 200 to 300 livestock. As a sideline, he also keeps about 20 ewes and has a love of horse breeding, producing young horses for showjumping and eventing.

Baden inherited the family farm from his parents Arthur and Selina who, he says, worked hard on the holding all their lives. “That is why the ethos of the family farm still runs very strong with me today,” he comments, stressing where exactly his core values lie.

His three sons are Robert (15), Angus (13) and Scott (11).

The two older boys are in boarding school in Kilkenny and, like their father who played with Nenagh Ormond, have a passion for the oval-ball game, while Scott, who is almost 12 and still in primary school, plays hurling with Templederry.

Baden originally farmed 300 ewes, but the extreme workload involved in running such a large flock eventually prompted him to scale down drastically on sheep and make a big shift towards beef production just over two decades ago.


He likes to see his three sons helping with the work on the farm at an early age. He himself took a similar path, starting his involvement in the farm family enterprise as a youngster. “My dad gave me the responsibility of running the farm when I was pretty young,” he says. “Dad was a great help to me but was happy to hand over to me at an early age.”

Baden says that maintaining a small sheep flock was a way of getting his own boys interested in farming. He loves to bring them along to the local mart to trade in animals and says they get a real kick out of it.

As a teenager himself he went to agriculture college in Gurteen, before heading off to Denmark at 19 to work a four-month placement on an all-year-round zero grazing dairy enterprise. This was a very different experience to being at home where our dairy herd is primarily pasture-fed, and Baden says he learned quite a lot from the entire experience.


And yet it wasn’t the exposure to the new dairy enterprise in Denmark that grabbed his prime attention. “It was the windmill at the bottom of a neighbouring field that caught my eye,” he reveals. “And so, at the first rumblings about wind energy here in Ireland I wasn’t afraid to start investing.”

In Denmark, he found the natives to be “a very honest” race, and so decided to buy a total of six turbines in that country and erect them on his farm in Templederry.

He has a partner in the business, a local electrician Kenneth McCarthy. The two of them began their alternative energy project 16 years ago, going on to set up two wind energy companies. They have been selling electricity to the national grid for the past seven years.

“It proved financially successful for us,” says Baden. “We did go through times when we got some very bad prices, but now we are getting very good prices. You take the ups and downs.”


Asked why he put his name forward for the demanding position as North Tipperary Chairman, he replies that, in fact, he didn’t. “I did not put myself forward,” he says, laughing. “Imelda [Walsh] kind of confronted me, and I seem to fall into these slots.”

Yet, assuming the role of the chair, which he admits is a role he has “always admired”, has not come without serving an throough apprenticeship in farm politics. He has already spent years as Chairman and Secretary of his local Templederry IFA branch and in fact still holds the secretary post.

Baden says the age profile of the IFA is increasing, and one of his main aims will be to try to attract young men and women into the association. He points to the valuable contribution being made to IFA by the current Chairwoman in the Templederry branch, Ciara Ryan, who is in only in her 20s. “It's great to see a young woman like that coming to the fore.”

Another priority for him is to create much greater public awareness of the quality of food produced by all sectors of farming within North Tipperary, while highlighting the vital links that exist between farmers and shop owners such as local butchers, greengrocers, bakers and restaurants.


Although he has himself in the past taken part in farmer protests, demanding higher beef prices and rounded up fellow farmers to join picket lines outside meat factories, he’s doubtful such tactics work or are in any way effective today.

“I don’t think it carries any weight anymore,” he says, asserting the view that relationships between the farm organisations and processors have significantly improved in recent times.

Much cleverer, he thinks, is the type of campaign recently mounted by the IFA and its President Tim Cullinan outside Dunnes Stores branches to highlight the low prices being paid to farmers. This tactic, he believes, creates a much better appreciation of the crucial role of farmers in food production, placing it in the glare of shoppers, while also putting pressure on retailers to enter talks about the future viability of their supplies if they continue to make farmers the victims of cheap food policies.

Meanwhile, the new legislation on the Common Agriculture Policy, due to be rolled out next year, has not altogether found favour universally, nor with Baden either. The EU may argue that the reforms pave the way for a fairer, greener and more performance-based CAP that will seek to ensure a sustainable future for farmers. However, Baden disagrees with much of this.

“Because of being in beef I felt a bit let down,” he says of the reforms. “It was the beef, the sheep and tillage men that brought subsidies into this country but in the new CAP the subsidies are being dispersed to all sectors without any consideration of which sectors need the most support.”

He doesn’t mention dairying, but says “there are different sectors that are on treble the gross margin of others”... and “beef, sheep and tillage were the losers.”

Indeed, Baden has noted as significant, the recent call by European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on the European Commission to prove its planned reform of the CAP has not been “unduly influenced” by lobby groups. He, like many others, awaits the EC’s reply to that probing question with more than a little interest.

On the requirement of farmers to cut carbon emissions by between 22 and 30pc by 2030, he says IFA is right to insist on the lower target of 22pc which, he asserts, is the most “realistic target” - and he feels the dairy sector looks like having to make most changes to achieve the targets.

Asked for his views about a shift from the tradition of family farming to factory farming in Ireland, he replied: “It’s not an ideal scenario, but I think that [shift] will now be halted and it will sort itself", he says, noting the CAP reforms soon to come into play.


He is impressed by the spectacular growth of the dairy sector since the abolition of quotas in 2015 and how it has managed to find ready markets all over the world. He says that success has been testament to the optimum exploitation of a natural resource - our rich grass growth - and he feels that pasture resource should continue to be fully exploited in to the future.

Asked if the expansion of the dairy sector would continue to impact on agriculture’s significant contribution to the ongoing deterioration of water quality in our rivers, Baden is of the opinion that the huge price hikes in artificial fertilizers will result in farmers relying more on slurry now and in to the future, a shift he feels will have a positive impact on our waterways.

Regarding his views on any move made by the goverment to reduce the national herd, he says “it would be a hard pill to swallow” if such an eventuality prevented young people from entering farming.