The tragic death, on March 15, this year, of Philip Reck, of Courtnacuddy, Enniscorthy, 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.
e will also be sadly missed by his friends, neighbours, work colleagues at Cooney Furlong Grain Ltd, and the wider agricultural community.
Philip was born on April 1, 1979 and was the third son of Peter and Anne Reck (nee: Marsh), Courtnacuddy, Enniscorthy.
He was predeceased by his father in 2016.
Philip attended Courtnacuddy Primary School and completed his secondary education at the CBS, Enniscorthy.
From 1997 to 1999, he attended Waterford Institute of Technology where he gained a Certificate in Agri. Science.
Philip then left for Wales where he received a BSc. Hons. Degree in Agriculture & Business Studies from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, also qualifying as an IASIS Certified Agronomist.
He then completed a Certificate in Crop Nutrition Management and won the ‘Student of the Year’ award.
It was while studying in Wales that he completed two consecutive harvests in the U.K, during 2000 and 2001.
He then travelled to Australia for the harvest and drove a combine harvester in Queensland and New South Wales.
This was followed by a spraying season in New South Wales, Australia, and at the end of that period abroad Philip decided to return to Ireland.
It was the harvest of 2002, when Philip began working for Walter Furlong Grain Ltd.
This was the period 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 including that of Production Manager at the Cooney Furlong Grain Co. where one of his roles was the formulation and production of 150 different fertiliser products.
Philip also held the position of Farm Manager at Walter Furlong Grain Ltd.
It was then that his professionalism, interpersonal and organisational skills became evident, as they were essential components to the smooth running of both companies.
His positive approach to both roles and his consistent and high-quality work guaranteed the overall efficient performance of both companies.
Philip was also a person 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 a 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 period that he also contributed a monthly report, for two years, on crops for the arable section in the UK’s Farmers’ Weekly magazine.
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 always 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 someone who placed 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 on 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 from his deep interest and research into soil fertility that he set about helping other farmers and farm advisors to improve soil fertility.
Philip pioneered the use of broad spectrum/in depth soil analysis in Wexford to show farmers and farm advisors their Calcium-v-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 trialling 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 his colleagues in BASE Ireland.
He was also well known as a cover crop innovator among leading farmers and agricultural advisors, not just in Ireland, but across the UK, Europe, and America.
Some achievement for a great son of Courtnacuddy.
Philip also had an exceptional understanding of the role Conservation Agriculture, Soil Health and Regenerative Farming in Ireland contribute to sustainable cereal production.
This understanding and expertise has 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 mat forming roots would protect against soil erosion.
He was deeply involved with BASE Ireland, a farmer-led education and support group, which he helped grow from its inception seven years ago.
Philip also held the position as Chairman of the group for two years.
His great service to all his friends and colleagues in BASE Ireland is well remembered.
The high regard in which he was held by BASE Ireland was reflected in a tribute on the group’s Instagram page on March 16, last: “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.
The esteem in which Philip was held by those who knew him was perhaps summed up well by one of his friends who said recently: “He was a wee man with a big heart.”
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 little girls.
The family regularly enjoyed bike rides, swimming, GAA, and hikes through the fields and woods with the dogs.
The hikes and walks were opportunities to study the life cycles of the common field plants, animals, and the ever-changing seasons.
At home he also took time out to be 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
The regard in which Philip was held by everyone within Cooney Furlong is reflected in the fact the company is in the process of setting up a bursary in Philip’s name with a local secondary school.
The bursary will be aimed at providing financial assistance to a student through third level agricultural education.