John McFadden, of Trafraska, Baltimore, Co Cork, who runs a 50-acre cattle farm, operated a cannabis barter system to pay labourers.
However, drugs squad gardaí were alerted to the crop and obtained a warrant to search his property.
Garda Padraig Slater said they found €10,000 worth of cannabis herb in two tubs in his kitchen and in two brown paper bags upstairs.
McFadden, aged 57, was arrested on May 28, 2011, and, on his way to Bandon Garda Station, he told gardaí that he had another property at Clogher, Dunmanway, Co Cork.
Gardaí immediately got a further warrant to search that property, where they found one cannabis plant and a stash of cannabis herb worth over €23,000.
Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan said it was for supply rather than sale, and that McFadden did not benefit financially from it.
McFadden told gardaí he was involved in barter whereby he would give workmen 2g of cannabis per hour’s work on a house he was building. He also said he was a heavy user of the drug himself, using about 1g a day.
Judge Patrick J Moran said that, in all of his years adjudicating over drugs cases, he had never come across something like this.
“It seems to be a novel way of dealing in drugs,” said the judge.
He read testimonials from neighbours and friends who described McFadden as decent, hardworking, honest, responsible, and a person of standing in the community.
“I accept you were of very considerable assistance to gardaí investigating this matter,” he said. “I suspect you would not have been charged with the Dunmanway offence but for the fact that you volunteered the information.
“This is a very serious offence. The legislature requires a judge by law to impose a sentence of not less than 10 years unless there are exceptional circumstances. I don’t believe this is a case requiring such a sentence.”
He imposed a five-year suspended sentence and told Mr O’Sullivan: “Tell your client I advise him to stay with his cattle and forget about cannabis.”