Farmers from across Ireland came together in the Burren this past weekend to celebrate the 2019 National Farming For Nature ambassador awards, sponsored by Bord Bia. Now in its second year, the initiative identified ten outstanding examples of how farming can have a positive impact on our biodiversity and climate, and over the weekend these case studies were shared through short films, panel discussions and an awards ceremony compered by broadcaster Ella McSweeney. The farmers from across Ireland included beef, sheep and tillage systems from a range of valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows, each with incredible inspiring stories around managing this land in a way that sustains nature and remains productive.
One of the drivers behind the initiative, Dr. Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme, said that ‘the stories told by these ten ambassadors are so educational and inspirational. Their knowledge, passion and eloquence shines through, providing powerful testimony as to how farming and nature can, and must, work in harmony. The work of these ambassadors demonstrates that simple actions can make a big difference for the wellbeing of nature and of people and will hopefully inspire other farmers to take some small steps to look after their farm’s wildlife. We felt that these farmers are deserving of respect and support through these awards: they embody all that’s great about rural Ireland’
Project co-ordinator Brigid Barry added that ‘I think every farmer in Ireland will be able to relate to at least one of these farmers and admire what they have managed to do on their farms. Each ambassador had a specially commissioned-film made about them so that the public could learn more about farming for nature and choose their favourite story. We had an outstanding response with thousands of votes cast in the last few weeks. The winner of the Public’s Choice Award were Kerry farmers Thomas and Claire O’Connor from Manna Organic Farm. Theirs is an encouraging story on how much nature you can support on 25 acres whilst also having a productive business’.
Thomas and Claire manage their mixed organic farm in Gleann na Gealt, Co. Kerry. They produce vegetables, salads, wheatgrass, meat, poultry and eggs which they sell locally in their shop in Tralee. They have 15 acres of native Irish woodland and 4 acres of permaculture including fruit trees. They also have an agroforestry area and promote pollinator and biodiversity friendly habitats. As they have said themselves: “We truly believe that returning to nature and natural farming systems can only create health and a vibrant environment. It can provide natural, nutrient-dense quality food that can be the corner stone for future generations. Organic food and caring for the environment we live in is not just a job for us, it is our life, we live it every day: on the farm, in the shop and at home.”
The National Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network.