Authors: Mrs. Anne Reck & Mrs. Marguerite Furlong
The tragic death of Philip Reck of Courtnacuddy, Enniscorthy on March 15th, 2021, has left a huge void in the lives of his beloved partner Martina, his two daughters, Aideen and Eve, his mother Anne, and brothers Eamon and Michael. He will also be sadly missed by his friends, neighbours, work colleagues at The Cooney Furlong Grain Company, and the wider agricultural community.
Philip was born on April 1st, 1979, the third son of Peter and Anne Reck (nee Marsh) of Courtnacuddy, Enniscorthy. He was predeceased by his father Peter Reck in 2016.
He attended Courtnacuddy Primary School and completed his secondary education at the CBS., Enniscorthy. From 1997 to 1999, Philip attended Waterford Institute of Technology where he graduated with a certificate in Agricultural Science. Philip then left for Wales where he received a BSc. Hons., Degree in Agriculture and Business Studies from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. During this time, he also qualified as an IASIS Certified Agronomist. He then completed a certificate in Crop Nutrition Management, from which he was awarded ‘Student of the Year’.
While studying in Wales, he completed two consecutive harvests in the UK, during 2000 and 2001. He then travelled to Australia for the harvest, where he drove a combine harvester in Queensland and New South Wales. This was followed by a spraying season in New South Wales. At the end of that period abroad, Philip decided to return to Ireland.
It was the harvest of 2002 that Philip began working at Walter Furlong Grain Ltd. This was a time when major changes in mechanisation on tillage farms were taking place.
From 2002 onwards, Philip held several roles within the group, culminating in two high-level appointments. He was Production Manager at The Cooney Furlong Grain Company, where one of his roles was the formulation and production of 150 different fertiliser products. He also held the position of Farm Manager at Walter Furlong Grain Ltd.
It was then that his professionalism, interpersonal and organisational skills became evident, which were the essential components to the smooth operation of both companies. His positive approach to both roles and his consistent and high-quality work guaranteed the overall efficient performance of both companies and he was always willing to co-operate and listen to his work colleagues. Creative thinking and problem-solving were two skills frequently displayed by Philip in his workplace. He possessed quiet confidence when it came to all things connected to farming and soil health, insisting that every job on the farm should be carried out to the highest level of perfection. It was during this time period that he also contributed a monthly report on crops for the Arable Section in the UK’s Farmers Weekly Magazine for a period of two years.
Outside of his work, Philip was widely known in agricultural circles for his expertise in soil science, cover crops, and cereal promotion and was always happy to share his knowledge and offer advice. He had a love for continuous research and learning and lived by the motto that “every day is a school day”.
Philip was a leader and promoter of catch crops and was someone who placed a huge emphasis on their use in cereal production. In many respects, he was ahead of the scientific research organisations in Ireland with his knowledge and deep understanding of their use and environmental benefits. By sharing his research and knowledge, he was instrumental in the ten-fold increase in catch crops sown in this country over the last 10 years.
It was his deep interest and research into soil fertility, that allowed him to help other farmers and farm advisors improve soil fertility. He pioneered the use of broad-spectrum/in-depth soil analysis in Wexford to show farmers and farm advisors their Calcium vs Magnesium ratios, while also advising them to look beyond the basic pH soil test.
Philip’s passion for cover crops and the knowledge he personally built up from his experience trialing the different cover crop species and mixtures, led the Irish Department of Agriculture to seek his advice on how they could encourage other Irish farmers to start growing these crops on their farms. This meant he could accurately advise farmers on the most suitable type of lime needed for individual soil types, and why some farms needed lime even though the pH was reading 6.5 and upwards. This led him to earn the title “The Lime King” among his friends and colleagues in BASE Ireland. He was also well known as a cover crop innovator among leading farmers and agricultural advisors, not just here in Ireland, but across the UK, Europe and America. A fantastic achievement for a great son of Courtnacuddy.
Philip also had an exceptional understanding of conservation agriculture, soil health, and regenerative farming in Ireland, and the role they play in contributing to sustainable cereal production. This understanding and expertise have been acknowledged and respected by many of his peers in Ireland and abroad.
It was Philip’s passion for wildflowers and the benefits to biodiversity and soil health that made him aware of the massive decline in pollinating insects, especially bees, and that this balance could be redressed on arable farms by drilling grass margins and sowing “bee-friendly” native wildflower seed mixtures. He also advocated the use of native Irish wildflowers as a break crop, experimenting with seed mixes to ensure weed control, while also using low growing varieties whose matt forming roots would protect against soil erosion.
From its inception seven years ago, Philip was deeply involved with BASE Ireland, where he held the position of Chairman for two years. His great service to all his friends and colleagues in BASE Ireland is well remembered. The following tribute appeared on their Instagram Page on 16th March 2021:
“It is never easy to speak of someone’s passing, much more one so tragic and untimely. It is with shock and our very heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of Philip Reck, a true pioneer in farming and once our selfless leader. One whom we all held in such high regard.
Philip was a true gentleman, known for his kindness, patience, and generosity. He is remembered by us as a much-loved friend, even beyond farming. Philip’s energy, enthusiasm, and friendly nature will be sorely missed by all who had the privilege to meet him, not least by BASE Ireland.
As a group, we will strive to continue Philip’s great legacy in bringing change to farming, as a testament to the work he selflessly put in over the past seven years since our inception. “Farmers educating farmers” a direct quote from Philip himself, became the very motto and ethos at the core of our existence and the very mantra we will revert to should we ever lose sight of our goal. Thank you for everything Philip, it was an honour to know and learn from you.”
It is hoped that Philip’s legacy for bringing sustainable change to farming and his mantra of ‘farmers educating farmers’ will never be forgotten. In memory of his all too short life, The Cooney Furlong Grain Company is currently setting up a bursary in Philip’s name with a local secondary school. The objective is to financially assist a student entering third-level agricultural education.
While the Irish Agricultural sector has experienced a huge loss with Philip’s tragic passing it fades into insignificance compared to the loss experienced by his immediate family. Philip was a devoted father to his two girls, Aideen and Eve and as a family, they regularly enjoyed bike rides, swimming, GAA, and hikes through the fields and woods with the dogs. This was an opportunity to study the life cycles of the common field plants, animals, and the ever-changing seasons. At home, he was also an avid grower of many varieties of pumpkins.
Philip and his partner Martina were truly ‘muintir na tuaithe’, people of the countryside which they both enjoyed along with their daughters. Philip’s legacy will live on in Martina’s assurance that Aideen and Eve will grow into two more ‘mna na tuaithe’
It is said that: if your name is held in the hearts of others you will never truly die.
A life well-lived.
Slan abhaile Philip, Guimid rath De ar d’anam dhilis