Here are our Farming For Nature Ambassadors from 2019. These 10 farmers and their families were shortlisted by the judges and are put out to the public to vote for an overall winner. You can vote by clicking on the button below it. Be warned – it is just one vote per email address! The voting closes on Thursday 25th October. The Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards are supported by Bord Bia.
Joe and Eileen farm 50-acres of enclosed farmland along with 1000 acres of commonage in the Knockmealdown Mountains, Co. Tipperary. They keep a herd of Belted Galloways and Galloways which are 100% grass fed and organic. They chose these cattle as they are well suited to the uplands, can be outside all year and can have a positive impact on their environment by controlling invasive species. They sell direct to customer. They are a good example of farmers that manage commonage ecologically and have their cattle outside 12 months of the year. “We don’t feel hard done by working with this land, we can see its benefits and how to capitalise on that is to work in sync with nature than trying to manipulate nature to give you something that isn’t naturally there.”
Mark and Alison Hurst run the 70-acre Featherfield farm with their farm manager, Julian Laitenberger in Lullymore, Co.Kildare. The farm is very diverse with enterprises such as beef production with Dexter cattle, a small sheep enterprise, a poultry layer and as well as a collection of rare breed poultry. There is also a small vegetable and fruit growing as well as a beekeeping enterprise. They sell direct to customer and have an education centre as they are keen to encourage others to grow and produce food in a sustainable manner. “We are just visitors on this land, and strive to leave it better than we found it for nature…whilst making an income”
Tommy manages his 100-acre organic Aberdeen Angus suckler farm on the shores of Lough Allen, Co. Roscommon. He has been farming organically on the site since 1996 with a clear focus on nature and habitat conservation. His farm has high natural value with a variety of habitats such as intact raised bog, mature native woodland, species rich acidic grassland, wildflower meadows, lakeshore and river. Tommy’s active role in local conservation has inspired others to follow his example in promoting nature on their own lands. “We have lost of a sense of connectiveness under our feet and once we get that reestablished we will be on our way to a healthier planet”
Michael runs a 100-acre organic farm in New Inn, Co.Tipperary where he manages half the farm for tillage and the rest for his herd of 40 Aberdeen Angus and horses. The farm has a variety of habitats including seasonally flooded grasslands, fen areas, pastures and meadows. Michael manages his field boundaries as habitats and is a good example of someone who has spent the time looking to see what management practices best suits each habitat to give the most for biodiversity. “I have given 30% of my farm over to habitats”
Mervyn manages a 500-acre mixed cattle and tillage farm with his father along the shore of Lough Ree, Co.Roscommon. The farm uses a low disturbance strip till system to protect soil structure, increase earthworms, reduce leaching and prevent soil erosion. They use cover crops which are then mulched on top of the soil as a green manure. Additionally, slurry has been spread using a low-emission system for the last 10 years in intensively farmed areas of their land. Mervyn’s is a good example of a farm that is making the transition from intensive methods of spraying to working with nature whilst not effecting the yield. “The earthworm has gone up four times since I stopped ploughing”.
Kate runs a 9-acre chemical free farm dedicated to biodiversity and permaculture in Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. She bought the farm with her partner, Tom, just a couple of years ago and is a good example of which can be achieved both in terms of habitat building and yield production in a short amount of time. Kate’s products include vegetables, fruits, geese, ducks, and hens are sold at a local market, helping to reduce food miles and support the local economy. She is a building up a farm that is climate resilient and incorporate wildlife into all parts of the farm. “Our first priority is offering a sanctuary, providing an oasis for wildlife”
Boyd and his wife Bride run a 350-acre farm on Inch Island, Co. Donegal. The farm is a mix of arable areas, sheep pastures and woodland, all of which is managed sensitively for nature. Boyd farms his land for nature and manages all aspects of the farm with nature in mind, including his shorelines, wetlands, woodlands, field boundaries and non-farmed areas. He is a good example of someone who has spent a lifetime improving his farm for nature. “Leave your hedges… a hedge without berries or blossom isn’t a hedge but a bundle of sticks”
Gerard is a part-time farmer who runs a 85-acres farm near Moycullen, Co. Galway. Its scrub, woodland, and species rich grassland. He manages that farm with the help of pedigree Belted Galloway cattle and is a enthusiastic believer and promoter of High Nature Value farming and farms with wildlife primarily in mind. He is a good example of how marginal land can be farmed ecologically through correct stocking rates and represents the growing amount of part-time farmers. “Farming needs to be supported toward ecological production not yield production”
Clive raises 100% grass-fed organic beef on his 130-acre farm in Ballymote, Co.Sligo. He has built his ‘Rare Ruminare’ brand based on his mix of traditional breeds such as Hereford, Shorthorn and Angus which are well suited to maintaining the farm’s species-rich grasslands. He sells his beef directly to the consumer. He uses mob grazing to ensure that grasslands are given time to recover between grazing periods and to improve the diversity of his grasslands through a more even grazing pressure and suitable stocking rate. He is a good example of how working with the right stocking rates and the environnment at hand you have you don’t have to supplement the diet of the animals or put them inside but just work with nature. “With this method of [mob] grazing you have put on enough condition on the cattle with a 100% grass fed diet.”
Thomas and Claire manage a 25-acre mixed organic farm in Gleann na Gealt, Camp, Co. Kerry. They produce vegetables, salads, wheatgrass, meat, poultry and eggs which they sell locally in their shop in Tralee (Manna Organic Store). They have 15-acres of native Irish woodland and 4-acres of permaculture including fruit trees. They are a great example of diverse food production and biodiversity production all on very marginal land, of proving what is possible. “Climate change is caused by the disconnection with the land and we need to produce farming systems that are less energy intensive”