Current Ambassadors

Below are the Farming For Nature Ambassadors since 2018.

 

Boyd Bryce  (Co.Donegal)

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”  More information and a short film on Boyd’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Calvey Family  (Co.Mayo)

The Calvey Family are based in Keel, Co Mayo.  They farm a herd of 150 Black-faced Mountain Sheep on their shareholding of an extensive (20,000 acre) commonage, as well as on an area of machair (a rare seaside habitat). These ‘Mayo blackhead ewes’ have been kept on this farm for many generations and are perfectly adapted to grazing the mosaic of protected habitats – from mountain to seashore – where they play a key role in maintaining local biodiversity. Martin is also a master butcher and he and his family have, since 1962, run the only abattoir on Achill island. The Calveys sell their trade-marked ‘Achill Mountain Lamb’ from their local shop as a high-quality food product, one which has won numerous awards and is the choice of many top-chefs through the west of Ireland, including Ashford Castle. Martin is a champion of good environmental management – a member of the local ‘custodians of the commonage’ group who helps ensure the land is properly cared for, as well as a great advocate for the link between habitat management, local food production and the added ecosystem and financial value that can result. As his daughter Martina says ‘We respect nature, we work with it and it rewards us very well’.  They were the overall winners of the Farming for Nature Award 2018 through public vote.  More information and a short film on the Calvey Family Farm here.  Ambassador 2018 

Clive Bright  (Co.Sligo)

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.”   More information and a short film on Clive’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Donal Sheehan  (Co.Cork)

Donal, along with his wife Ita and two children, farms a 70-cow dairy herd on ‘Blossom Farm’ near Castlelyons, in the Bride valley, Co. Cork. While Donal runs what would at first be considered a ‘typical’ intensive farm, he has a keen interest in farming in a more nature-friendly way. As he puts it ‘we try to push the boat out all the time trying to make farming around here more sustainable’. He dedicates a proportion of his farm to biodiversity including ponds, pollinator strips and wild bird cover for overwintering birds. He keeps bees and farms with these in mind minimising herbicide use.  He doesn’t cut hedges and has energy saving devices on his milking machines. Donal believes farmers can make a huge difference in improving biodiversity, lowering their carbon footprint and improving the quality of our water. Such is his conviction and vision, that he is one of the main drivers of an innovative new pilot project called The BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration In a Dairying Environment) Project which rewards farmers for delivering measurable improvements in biodiversity over a 5 year periodDonal is a very eloquent advocate for – and exponent of – farming for nature.  More information and a short film on Donal’s farm here.  Ambassador 2018

Gerard Walshe (Co.Galway)

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”  More information and a short film on Gerard’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Joe and Eileen Condon (Co.Tipperary)

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.”   More information and a short film on Joe and Eileen’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Kate Egan (Co.Westmeath)

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”  More information and a short film on Kate’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Kim and Mirielle McCall  (Co.Kildare)

Kim and Mireille manage a 214-acre mixed livestock stock farm in Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare. They keep a herd of 75 pedigree suckler cows and their followers, a flock of c.80 sheep, as well as a few pigs in the summertime. The farm boasts a wide range of habitats – wetlands, woodlands, wet and dry grasslands, old buildings and walls. Kim acknowledges that farming sustainably isn’t easy, particularly trying to remain profitable, but feels that if you manage the land within its capacity, it’s very doable – ‘farming for nature, not against it’ as he says. No artificial fertilizers are purchased, no pesticides are used and hedgerows and grasslands are rarely topped – ‘tidiness is a state of mind’ according to Kim – with the preferred approach being a careful and balanced management which has resulted in an ideal situation for nature – birds, butterflies, bees – to thrive. The McCalls work in this regard has been recognised by several National awards and several appearances on TV. The McCalls work closely with the National Biodiversity Data Centre, providing valuable data. Kim is concerned about changes in the rural landscape, in particular the loss of wetlands to forestry, as we try to increase carbon sequestration, a potentially worrying trade-off in his opinion. He offers the following advice on farming for nature: ‘Stand back and look – observation is the basis for intelligence’. Here is a leaflet that Kim and his wife Mirielle put together on their farm. View here: Calverstown Farm     More information and a short film on Kim and Mirielle’s farm hereAmbassador 2018

Mark and Alison Hurst (Co.Kildare)

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”  More information and a short film on Mark and Alison’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Mervyn Auchmuty (Co.Roscommon)

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”.   More information and a short film on Mervyn’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Michael Hickey  (Co.Tipperary)

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”  More information and a short film on Michael’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Padraig Corcoran (Co.Roscommon)

Padraig has a cattle and sheep enterprise on their holding in Mount Plunkett, near Lough Ree, Co. Roscommon. Padraic manages this 54-acre section of an old estate – which he and his family run as a Nature Reserve – composed of diverse range of tillage, grassland, woodland and wetland. He has restored woodland, planted new hedgerows, dug ponds, installed bat and bird boxes and restored wetland areas for breeding waders of conservation importance by clearing encroaching scrub.  He has established plots for wild birds and used seed mixes that are optimum for biodiversity.  Padraig is very knowledgeable and keen to advocate for getting the best for biodiversity from his landscape.  “We don’t do anything special, just care for what’s there. Farming is about being sensitive and compassionate to the environment that we are working in’.   More information and a short film on Padraig’s farm here.  Ambassador 2018

Pat Dunne (Co.Wicklow)

Pat is a sixth-generation hill sheep farmer in Glenmalure valley, County Wicklow. He farms with his two sons, together keeping 1,100 ewes on 1,250 acres of commonage. The farm is 90% mountain grazing, mostly dry heath and upland grassland which is all designated SAC and NHA. The area is rich in wildlife, including grouse. Pat takes his role as the current “keeper” of the family’s long tradition of work on the uplands seriously and is anxious to hand-over the Wicklow hills in the best possible condition to the next generation of upland farmers. He feels that over the last 40 years there has been a slow but progressive decline in hill sheep farming, with the quality of the grazing declining along with the associated biodiversity, as bracken and Molinia start to take over. Pat was determined to work out a solution to this issue and was instrumental in establishing the new Sustainable Upland Agri-Environmental Scheme (SUAS) so that farmers can work together to the better of the uplands. The project will explore key management issues including vegetation management through targeted grazing, feeding and burning. Pat feels that it is important to keep these places ‘as living landscapes, not just wilderness’. Though he recognises the challenges, Pat loves farming and ‘doesn’t know a better way of life’.  He was one of the first Wicklow farmers to establish an “Agreed Access Route” on his lands. He is very involved in the local community, also in the Wicklow Uplands Council and at a National level on the IFA’s Hill committee.  More information and a short film on Pat’s farm here.   Ambassador 2018

Sean O’Farrell (Co.Tipperary)

Sean manages a 60-acre certified organic Cloncannon farm on the western slopes of the Devil’s bit Mountains, near Moneygall in North Tipperary. Sean keeps a 20 cow suckler herd, as well as pigs, poultry and goats. With a Master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation, Sean is a heritage enthusiast, continuously planting native trees, putting in ponds for wildlife and pollinator strips for his beehives and birdlife.  He does this to encourage biodiversity but also for his personal fulfilment and satisfaction ‘for when he has aged 30 or 40 years from now’. He says that this is part of ‘my 5 year plan, my 50 year plan, my 500 year plan’ and feels that farmers should think long-term like the native Americans, ‘seven generations from now’ Sean feels he is on a journey of learning and he is particularly passionate about the importance of soil and making sure it is properly nurtured to ensure good crop health – ‘the microbes and the fungi – so minute yet so powerful, they drive the whole system’.  Sean runs numerous education programmes for primary and secondary schools, hosts events for Biodiversity and Heritage Week and opens the farm as an eco-tourist visitor site.  More information and a short film on Sean’s farm here.   Ambassador 2018

Tommy Earley (Co.Roscommon)

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”   More information and a short film on Tommy’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

Thomas and Claire O’Connor (Co.Kerry)

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”   More information and a short film on Thomas and Claire’s farm here.  Ambassador 2019 

 

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