Current Ambassadors

Below are the Farming For Nature Ambassadors since 2018.

 

Ailbhe Gerrard (Co.Tipperary)

Ailbhe runs a 30 hectare farm on the banks of Lough Derg.  She bought the land in 2010 and took on the challenge of turning a neglected farm into a diverse farm system to make a living.  Today one third of the farm is broadleaf (3 acres of which is designated), one third is arable and one third is agri-environment under wild bird cover. She has an organic sheep flock and honey bees which she sells both directly from the farm and online.  Ailbhe shares her passion of farming with others with regular open days and demonstration days, and her farm is an official Teagasc demo farm.  She is a Nuffield Agricultural Scholar and lectures at Gurteen Agricultural College.  More information about the farm and a short podcast with Ailbhe are available here.  Ambassador since 2019

Andrew Bergin (Co.Kildare)

Andrew Bergin farms 320 acres of tillage. He has been practicing no-till cereals for a good number of years, while managing the soil in a way to promote high levels of biological benefits. Andrew sows cover crops, and is constantly trailing on farm what species work best for his soil and rotation. This is an integral part that has allowed Andrew prosper in this system that benefit both the environment and the farmer.  His approach is to improve the soil structure and the microflora and insect populations in the soil.  Crops include spring and winter cereals, oil seed rape and peas.  Integrated crop management is practiced to minimise the use of sprays – no insecticides have been used in the last 5 years.  Pollinator strips, 6 – 10 meters wide are in place around most of the tillage fields margins, attracting large numbers of insects and birds.  In addition, a number of fields margins and other areas, which were difficult to cultivate for tillage crops, have been planted with trees – oak, beech, birch, holly, hazel, pheasant berry etc. Andrew’s farm is moving away from excessive inputs and looking bring new ideas and knowledge as well as a positive focus to a type of farming generally considered less environmentally friendly. “It is important to get involved in and look at local research so we can each discover what is best for our own soils, not what chemical is best to throw on it.”  More information and a short film on Andrew’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020

Anthony Mooney (Co.Kildare)

Anthony Mooney runs a 200-acre beef farm with the help of his wife Mary Rose and son Conor. The fertile limestone soil is well suited for growing high quality grass. Anthony runs a herd of between 70-100 cross-bred continental cattle. The grassland has not been reseeded in over 25 years – the permanent pasture contains a diverse range of grasses and flowering plants. Very few external inputs are used on the farm – chemical fertilizer hasn’t been used on the land in over 20 years and very little concentrate meal is fed to the animals. The multi-species hay meadows go to flower in the summer months, providing crucial habitats and food sources for various creatures. A wildlife enthusiast for much of his life, Anthony has spent years observing and recording different plant, bird and insect species on the land; “Over the past 2 years I have started targeting specific species on the farm that I thought needed help – birds, mammals, insects and plants. For example, we’ve been focusing on ground nesting birds like skylarks and meadow pipits – I delayed the mowing of a field last summer because there was a nesting skylark in one of the meadows.” There are 2 ponds on the land which create important water habitats for frogs, birds and insects. Trees and hedgerows are also important habitats on the farm – “I’ve put in around 600-700 meters of hedges on the farm. I’ve never taken out a hedge. I manage hedges for biodiversity. They are cut back every 4-5 years to encourage new growth.” More information and a short film on Anthony’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

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 since 2019 

Bridget Murphy (Co.Sligo)

Bridget has been living on and farming mountain land for nearly 20 years. She would be the 8th generation she knows farming the land. She prefers to practice agroecology over agriculture or agribusiness and uses her farm as a case study on issues ranging from governance of the commons, to using native ponies and bees to diversify grazing / forage regimes on the hills. She keeps a flock of Cheviot sheep, four hill ponies and an apiary of native black bees, plants in copses of native woodlands and maintains watercourses and streams. She builds dry stone walls and keeps a few acres under traditional hay meadow. Her land has a healthy wildlife population that includes pine marten, badgers, foxes and lots of hares. The birdlife is prolific and there are small trout in the streams. Heath and blanket bog characterise the higher land parcels, and for the last decade she has been working on rewetting sections of the land; she sees the value in the allowing the natural habitat to return and recognises the need to keep the carbon stores locked in the ground. She is a long time land rights activist from her early days fighting the Apartheid system in South Africa and claiming land back for rural black communities, she is also a long time ecofeminist. More information and a short film on Bridget’s farm hereAmbassador since 2020

Cathal Mooney (Co.Donegal)

Cathal Mooney of Heather Hill Farm (HHF) is a regenerative farmer located in Donegal. He takes a holistic approach to farming, focusing on ecological, social and economic goals. Heather Hill Farm produce pasture raised turkey, pasture raised chicken, pasture raised eggs, wildflower honey and grass-fed lamb. HHF operate a Holistic Planned Grazing system, meaning their animals are moved to fresh pasture every day. They have implemented a Silvopasture system where fruit trees, nut trees and berry bushes have been planted throughout their grassland. This increases biodiversity and contributes to healthy soil. Cathal is passionate about education. He believes strongly in building personal relationships with his customers and educating them on where their food comes from and how it is produced. He frequently runs farm tours/open days, giving customers and farmers the opportunity to see first-hand the regenerative farming practices he is carrying out. “Our goal is to produce local food for the community. We want our customers to become our friends and come to the farm to see how their food is produced.” Working in ways that mimic nature, building healthy soil, selling direct to customers and providing education around regenerative agriculture is central to what they do at Heather Hill Farm – “We aim to produce quality grass fed produce that improves the soil, adds value to our community and sustains the farm into the future.”  More information and a short film on Cathal’s farm here. Ambassador since 2021

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 Farming for Nature Award  public vote winners in 2018.  More information and a short film on the Calvey Family Farm here.  Ambassador since 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 since 2019 

Colm Gavin (Co.Mayo)

Colm Gavin is an 8th generation farmer, farming in the Bundorragha catchment in Mayo. He farms 90-100 Mayo blackface ewes. The sheep are out on the mountain year-round, grazing the multi-species natural vegetation and maintaining the land. Colm operates a very extensive hill farming operation and very few external inputs are required on the farm.  Colm is involved in the Pearl Mussel Project EIP. This project rewards participant farmers for the ecological quality of their land, which in turn contributes to the pristine water quality needed by the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. As part of his work in this project, Colm continues to remove invasive rhododendron from the mountain, as well as installing silt traps to capture excess sand/silt runoff from the land before it enters the river. He has also put in livestock bridges at various points along the riverfront to further protect the water quality. “Being part of the Pearl Mussel Project EIP puts value on land that we wouldn’t have considered highly valuable in the past. These areas have actually turned out to be the most important areas on the farm in terms of biodiversity.”  Passionate about the beautiful landscape and nature that makes up his farm, Colm sees himself as a caretaker of the land and hopes the pass it on to the next generation in better condition than which he found it; “as a hill farmer – all you’re doing is maintaining the land.”  More information on Colm’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

Cyril Ó Flaithearta (Co.Galway)

Cyril runs the family farm, based on Inis Mór island in Co. Galway, keeping beef cows and selling weanling calves and/or stores. The highly fragmented farm, with up on 80% of its area within an SAC runs from one side of the island to the other and contains fine examples of species rich grassland and the associated biodiversity. Active management by Cyril and his family maintain these stunning grasslands. It takes a lot of work to rebuild stone walls to control the grazing livestock, to ensure fresh water supplies on the small fragmented fields and to control encroaching bramble and scrub. Cyril’s work is a continuance of the traditional winterage management system that has created and maintained these grasslands for many generations, but he is also adopting new methods such as improvements in animal breeding and nutrition to improve the agricultural output of the farm.   More information on Cyril’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020

Darina Allen (Co.Cork)

Darina has a mixed stock organic farm with her husband. The farm includes one acre wide glasshouses which yield an abundance of fruit and vegetables, and is home to free-range pigs, beef, approximately 600 hens and dairy cows which are milked daily to produce local cheese and yoghurt. The patch is also often used to test experimental planting and sowing techniques such as biodynamic planting – sowing crops in harmony with the various phases of the moon – with the aim of optimising yield, flavour and quality. Darina is totally passionate about the soil and believes the healthier the soil, the healthier the plant, the animals and the humans. Another biodiversity friendly technique incorporated is the use of green manure – the incorporation of certain green plants back into the soil, which improves the soil structure; increases soil biodiversity, helps to prevent soil erosion and helps to reduce pests and diseases affecting plants & vegetables. It is a circular economy with zero waste. The core philosophy of the farm is sustainable food production whilst also building up wildflower meadows, recording insects, swift boxes and house martens, not cutting hedgerows and planting edible hedgerows for wildlife and shelter. Core to Darina’s work is sharing ideas on food sustainability with others through a permanent on-site cookery school. More information and a short podcast on Darina’s farm here.  Ambassador since 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 since 2018

Donna Mullen (Co.Meath)

Donna and her husband brought their 43-acre farm twenty years ago. It initially comprised of three large fields of intensive grassland with little plant or animal diversity. Through their work and dedication, it has been transformed into a nature reserve. They have planted 7 ½ acres of bird seed crop – oats, linseed and kale. There are now twenty-two species of birds on the farm, including species new to the farm: buzzards, mallard ducks, jays, woodcock and grasshopper warblers. 15 acres of woodland was added to increase species diversity. Two orchards of heritage Irish apple trees were planted as was an acre of wildflower meadow for pollinators. Over the last six years 1km of hedgerow has been planted. Hedgehogs were reintroduced last year and pine martins were recorded on the farm for the first time last year. A lake was created to encourage newts. Over 50 bat boxes are located  on the farm. What Donna and her family are doing on their farm is easily replicable, providing diverse habitats to encourage diverse species. More information on Donna’s farm and a podcast can be listened to hereAmbassador since 2019

Edmund Joyce (Co.Carlow)

Edmund Joyce is a drystock farmer from near Borris in Co Carlow. He was nominated in 2018 for the Farming For Nature Awards. He runs a herd of limousin-cross suckler cows and a flock of commercial Suffolk-cross ewes on the 125 acre holding. Since taking over the farm in 2007 Edmund has planted over 6000 native trees in different newly established groves around the farm. Red squirrels are a regular sight on his farm, and all 15 bird boxes have been occupied each year, even a pair of great spotted woodpeckers took up residence in one of the boxes this year. Both Soprano Pipistrelle bats and Brown Long Eared bats also present in the woodland. Whilst a number of barn owls are particularly attracted to the long grasses in an established wild meadow area and are nesting in the trees. The native apple orchard planted about 7 years ago is providing an abundance of fruit whilst the cottage garden has also been planted up with flowers and shrubs which are a haven for bees, butterflies and hedgehogs. Edmund chose the planting to compliment the setting whilst also providing a succession of plants from early spring right through to winter for nectar feeding insects. Water voles occupy a watercourse which runs the length of the farm whilst the dry-stone granite walls that subdivide the farm have provided ideal cover for other small mammals including stoats and pine martens. More information on Edmund’s farm and a film can be viewed hereAmbassador since 2019

Eoghan Daltun (Co.Cork)

Eoghan Daltun runs a high nature value (HNV) farm and rewilding project on the Beara peninsula of Co. Cork. “The farm is all about productivity of biodiversity and nature. That is the primary aim.”  The main block of private land is 21.5 acres, the majority of which is highly species-rich native Atlantic temperate rainforest. “The native woodland is incredibly species rich, this part of Ireland is recognized by biologists as a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ in terms of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts)”. The woodland consists of old sessile oaks and range of other wild native tree species. The understory is equally as species-rich and diverse, consisting of a vast array of wildflowers, ferns, mosses, lichen and fungi. The farm is home to an array of wildlife, including some rare species like the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly and the Kerry Slug.  The next block of land is a mix of native woodland and species-rich grassland. The final block of land is commonage. Previously a sheep farmer, Eoghan has recently replaced his flock of sheep with a small herd of Dexter cattle. He believes the cattle, as they are non-selective grazers, are better suited to his HNV farming practice and to the regeneration of the land. The plan is to graze the cattle on the commonage during the summer months and then bring them back to the lower lands during the winter – emulating the very old practice of ‘booleying’ which involved moving animals to the uplands during the summer season.  More information on Eoghan’s farm here. Ambassador since 2021

Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin (Co.Mayo)

Feargal has 25 acres on the Mullet Peninsula where his primary objective is to return Corncrakes to the farm, while also boosting wider biodiversity including Twite (another ‘red-list’ bird), Chough, Barnacle Geese, pollinators, and habitats in their own right like a species-rich fen. Working on a farm plan with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Feargal is designing and implementing a series of measures to convert what was a rather lifeless monoculture of grass to a tapestry full of colour, sights and sounds as would have been commonplace throughout the Irish countryside in previous generations. Feargal has not only created a haven for important habitats and species, but is also trialling new and innovative measures in managing for wildlife on productive agricultural land. Since Feargal began farming for nature here, there has been a remarkable increase in the rare and threatened wildlife on his farm.  More information on Feargal’s farm and a podcast can be found hereAmbassador since 2019

Fergal Anderson & Emanuela Russo (Co.Galway)

Photo: REG GORDON

Fergal Anderson & Emanuela Russo run a market garden in Loughrea county Galway. The farm is comprised of 30 acres in total, 25 of which is mixed forestry. The remaining 5 acres are used to produce a vast range of agroecologically produced vegetables and fruits, including but not limited to, beets, chard, kale, radish, blackcurrants, gooseberries, loganberries, apples, plums, pears and a range of medicinal herbs. They sell their produce direct to customers and supply restaurants in Galway. Fergal and Emanuela have been working on the land for 8 years – gradually building the soil and transforming the land into a productive farm that is economically and ecologically sustainable. Bees are kept on the farm and they plan to reintroduce chickens and include them in their vegetable rotation system. They use a diverse range of green manures on the farm to increase the fertility of the soil as well as enhancing the soil biology and structure. They grow summer green manure crops to provide food for insects.  The farm is full of biodiversity – there is a stream in the woodland which has crayfish and otter in it. There are two small ponds on the farm with frogs and newts. There are red squirrel and pine marten, foxes, hares, bats and sparrowhawks. They have planted ‘natural edges’ around the land with hazel, hawthorn and other native trees. They leave ‘wild spaces’ around as much of the land as possible to further increase biodiversity on the farm.  More information on Fergal and Emanuela’s farm here. Ambassadors since 2021

Fergal Smith (Co.Clare)

Fergal Smith is one of the main drivers behind Moyhill Community Farm, a regenerative agriculture farm. At the farm they currently manage 66 acre of land with their main enterprise being 2 no dig market gardens both with roughly 100 x 30metre beds in each, and four tunnels.  Their aim is to regenerate soil, so they are bringing more animal enterprises on each year. Currently they have a small flerd of six cows and ten sheep. They run a turkey enterprise for Christmas with 160 birds this year and they have three pigs, which they have been using to clear rough land over the past seven years. They next plan to bring on laying hens, and increase the flerd.  They follow holistic management whereby all their animals are moved on daily or twice daily system.  They are inspired by the Savory Institute, and hope to become a Savory hub in the future.  They have a strong connection to the local community; all their sales are through direct selling models (CSA, market, farm shop, Reko ring, Neighbour food) and local restaurants.  They have planted 26,000 trees on the farm in an agri-forestry system (wind breaks, hedgerows and alleyways).  Outside of regenerating land, education is their other focus; they offer this through internships, open work days, and are building a farm system that needs more employees, as an alternative to being a stand alone farmer.  More information on Moyhill farm hereAmbassador since 2019

Gearoid Maher (Co.Limerick)

Gearoid Maher farms 80 hectares in Co. Limerick. He has a dairy herd of purebred friesians, milking 80 cows in total. The animals graze from mid-March to the end of October. Hay and silage are cut from the land and fed to the cattle during the winter months. Gearoid feeds locally grown sugar beet to the cows over winter, this has halved the amount of concentrates fed on the farm.  The land is a heavy clay type and requires careful management. Gearoid carries out regular soil tests to determine what specific nutrients are required in each field and at what exact quantity – “I reduced my nitrogen use by approx. 25% on the farm last year as I now have the proper equipment.” He has been gradually increasing the clover content in the grassland and has sown some multispecies grass swards on the farm – with the aim of improving the soil biology and reducing the amount of fertilizer needed in the future.  Gearoid is passionate about increasing biodiversity on the farm. He has planted trees all around the farm, an orchard by the house, as well as hedges and tree lines throughout the fields. There is 20 acres of forestry on the land and the aim is to thin the forest and allow the cows dig up and graze the ground vegetation which will help regenerate the forest floor. Gearoid doesn’t believe in chasing targets on his farm – he enjoys a slower pace of farming ensuring both his animals and nature thrive – “The old rule of thumb was a cow to the acre – and that has been my ethos all along. If I can farm a cow to the acre without pressure then that’s what I’ll do.”  More information on Gearoid’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

Gerard Deegan (Co. Westmeath)

Gerard Deegan is a lifelong farmer from Co. Westmeath. The farm has been certified organic for over 20 years. Originally a dairy farmer, Gerard transitioned to a mixed beef and forestry enterprise back in 2012. There is now 100 acres of forestry on the land – 50% hardwood and 50% softwood. Gerard is an advocate for diverse forestry systems, he practices continuous cover forestry and has incorporated wildlife strips between rows of trees. There are approximately 60 different species of trees on the farm – including Norway spruce, Scots pine, Larch, Douglas Fir, Ash, Oak, Sycamore, Beech and many more. Gerard won the RDS Farm Forestry Award in 2019. Additionally, he manages a small suckler herd producing organic beef. He also keeps bees, producing honey for neighbours and friends. Gerard holds a holistic outlook on his farm, understanding and valuing the importance of every living creature on the land – from the microscopic soil fungi to the cattle, from the bees to the oak trees. “The bees are a lesson in life. They have taught me a lot about nature. How we are all connected, and how everyone has a role to play, no matter how big or small that role may be…” An advocate for the importance of community, Gerard is involved in Social Farming and a member of Leitrim Organic Farmers Coop since 1990.  More information and view a film on Gerard’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

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 since 2019 

Graham Harris  (Co.Kildare)

Graham Harris took over the family farm in 2003 and continued to farm the land conventionally until about 5 years ago. Since then, he has been gradually moving away from intensive systems towards holistic, regenerative practices. Guided by biodynamic principles, Graham has been focusing on “removing as many harmful practices from his farming system as possible”. The farm is now certified organic. In order to bring the land back into balance, huge focus has been on rebuilding the soil microbiology – “I firmly believe if I can get the soil right, then I don’t have to worry about much else.”  The 170-acre farm is comprised of a mixed sheep and tillage enterprise. Cereals produced include organic oats, along with pea and barley combi-crops for animal feed. Graham uses a diverse variety of cover crops on the land throughout rotations – “incorporating cover crops that feed the soil and feed the pollinators.” Aiming to move away from mono-cropping, Graham has started experimenting with growing an understory of clover with the oat crops. Farmyard manure is composted and spread on the land as a fertilizer when necessary. Biodynamic preparations are also used on the land to regenerate the soil biology.  Graham runs a flock of 130 Belclare/Charollais ewes, producing organic spring lamb. He has incorporated herbal leys into the grassland to increase plant diversity and build soil biology.  Where in the past nettles and weeds would have been sprayed, Graham now encourages wild patches of plants to grow around field boundaries which act as nature corridors and provide habitats for birds and insects.  More information on Graham’s farm here. Ambassador since 2021

Henry O’ Donnell (Co.Donegal)

Henry O Donnell manages a mixed organic farm in the uplands of north Donegal. The 92-hectare farm is made up of different types of land – lowland pasture, marginal upland and commonage. He runs a flock of 60 horned upland ewes. The sheep enterprise is a low input and low-cost system. Henry also runs a herd of suckler cattle, half continental breeds and half Galloways, producing high quality organic beef.  External inputs are extremely low on the farm. Henry has been experimenting with growing red clover swards for winter fodder, as well as multi-species swards for grazing on the lowlands. The animals graze a mixture of diverse vegetation throughout the year as they move from the lowlands to the uplands. Last year Henry moved the Galloways uphill even further to graze the commonage land – “Galloways have done an excellent job on the upland and commonage vegetation as they are non-selective grazers. They have removed a lot of millennia and dead grass, thus improving the biodiversity of the land. They have also improved the grazing for the sheep that are coming after them.”  Henry is passionate about the importance of grazing animals in maintaining marginal uplands – through reducing fire risks, maintaining plant diversity and fertilizing the land. “My whole attitude is to try and have a farming system that works for the environment that I’m in…” He is a strong advocate for low-impact, high nature value farming systems and this is reflected in the way in which he runs his own farm in the hills of Donegal.  More information on Henry’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

Irish Seed Savers Association (Co.Clare)

ISSA conserve Ireland’s threatened genetic resources and maintain a public seed bank of over 600 varieties of seed. They preserve heirloom and heritage food crop varieties that are suitable for Ireland and local growing conditions, contributing to the nation’s food security. They provide a unique service to the nation in terms of supply of organic heritage seeds and apples trees. The 20 acre farm, gardens and visitor trail at Capparoe, Scarriff, Co. Clare is an inspiration, ably demonstrating best practice in organic farming and farming for nature. They supply seeds of vegetables, grains, herbs and edible flowers, as well as apple trees the progeny of which, thanks to ISSA, adorn many an orchard across Ireland today. More information here.  Ambassador since 2020

James Breslin (Co.Donegal)

James Breslin, an Inishowen hill farmer, runs a suckler and sheep farm in Donegal. He has reintroduced Galloway cattle to his farm as he feels their hardy nature is well suited to the mountainous conditions of the land. “The Galloways work will with the sheep as they like to graze the taller grasses and the sheep like to graze the lower grasses.” Many of the animal’s live outdoors year-round, feeding on pasture and natural mountain vegetation during the summer months, and hay/silage during the winter. The animals are thriving in this systema and it reduces farm inputs like feed and fertilizer.  James has resown some of the farmland with red clover swards and multi-species grass swards, further reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer and increasing biodiversity on the farm – “when the red clover is in flower, you can hear it before you see it – because of the amount of bees it attracts”. These diverse swards help build soil fertility and improve soil structure.  James has planted hundreds of native trees and continues to plant trees on his farm to create ‘green barns’ which serve as shelter for the animals while outdoors. He has dug 2 ponds on the farm to create a water habitat and encourage further biodiversity. He plans to create a riparian zone by planting trees along the riverbank to protect river water.  A member of the of the Operational Group of the Inishowen EIP, James welcomes visitors to his farm to learn more about his farming system.  More information on James’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

Jim Cronin (Co.Clare)

Jim Cronin has a 16-acres organic market garden farm in Co.Clare where he has been adopting biological agriculture principles for the last 30 years without loosing many of the traditional methods of farming. Jim’s entire farming ethos is seamlessly entwined with nature conservation. Not only does he create a habitat for pollinators and wildlife but also for all the unseen worms and micro-organisms which are fundamental to growing crops and sustaining life above ground. Jim has both a small suckler herd and 2 working horses that both help work the land and provide essential manure for soil fertility. Jim is both a teacher and a commercial grower of fruit and vegetables. Jim both combines the old traditions with new knowledge and methods based on sound principals as well as proves that one can make a good commercial yield from a small area without compromising nature. “Listen to your heart, yes you have to make money, but every farmer I know is a custodian of the land and intrinsically knows what is best for nature”.  He has distilled his farm knowledge down to an exact science and created a bank of wisdom.  Everything Jim does is a deliberate move to try to harness the resources that nature already offers us in terms of soil health, pest control and crop growth.  Most importantly there is the unquestioning fact that he loves what he does and what he does is a truly beautiful way of farming for nature. More information and a short film on Jim’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020 

Joe and Aoife Reilly (Co.Mayo)

Joe and Aoife Reilly of Glasraí Farm run a 7.5 acre organic market garden in Hollymount, county Mayo. Biodiversity is of huge importance on the farm – “We farm with the earth as our core value and encourage a biodiverse, vibrant, healthy eco-system rather than a monoculture farm”. The farm is highly productive not only in terms of food production, but in terms of soil health and wildlife as well. On the farm there are 3 ponds, mixed hedgerows and a variety of trees, all of which provide habitats for wildlife. They promote ‘wild areas’ on the farm where natural vegetation can grow and support insects and birds throughout the year. Soil health is crucial on Glasraí farm. Cover crops containing diverse plant species are planted in rotation with vegetable crops throughout the year to allow to the soil to rest and to regenerate the soil biology. Composting also plays a crucial role in maintaining soil fertility.  Glasraí Farm are passionate about providing fresh, healthy food to their local community. The farm produces a vast range of organic herbs and vegetables – from fennel to cauliflower to potatoes and beyond. They sell direct to their customers via farmers markets and online, as well as selling to local cafes and restaurants. Glasraí farm value teamwork – what started off as a family farm now consists of an energetic collaboration of 6 passionate employees – “Having a good team to work with and creating local employment is really important to us”. More information on Reilly’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

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.  Ambassadors since 2019 

John McHugh (Co.Laois)

John McHugh has a 230-acre organic dairy farm in Co.Laois. He moved away from being an intensive dairy farmer in 2015 when he realised that he needed to create a sustainable and resilient lifestyle that his children could carry on.  He is a farmer that has adapted from a commodity and profit driven production system of dairy farming to one that is focused on family succession, long term environmental goals and nature based farming. A farm that is being built around supporting and developing his local community – developing the Clondarrig Community Farm Project.  Since 2015, he has sown diverse pastures, practises holistic grazing that allows pastures to flower and seed enabling some natural succession to take place and bringing about huge jumps in insect populations. “Having long grazing intervals and reduced grazing pressure is allowing more natural diversity back into the farm”. He has embraced the principles of Permaculture, converting pastures to agroforestry and lining cow access roadways with fruit and nut trees. Pigs were introduced to the farm as another means of promoting diversity, helping to break the dominance of perennial rye grass and create opportunities for other plants.  Oats are sown to provide the straw and grain requirements and the surplus is sold to Flahavans for organic porridge.  In 2018 he decided to open up his farm to people that were able to teach others about engaging with the land and reconnecting with nature, this saw the birth of the Clondarrig community farm project. “Its all about connection, connection of trees, wildlife, butterflies, but the connection with people as well”.  More information and a short film on John’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020 

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 since 2019 

Kieran Doona (Co.Kerry)

Kieran Doona, comes from a family that have been farming along one of the main access routes to Carrauntoohil for 5 generations. Kieran is a young part-time farmer who is part of the MacGillcuddy Reeks EIP project and works hard to meet their objectives of working with local farmers to maintain and enhance the rare and protected heath and bog through controlled grazing, establishing an active landowner ranger presence, undertaking path maintenance works and treating bracken and rhododendron in the area.  He is open to trialling new approaches on his farm. Kieran has significantly reduce sheep numbers on his site to allow the heathers and other heathland vegetation to recover and has also agreed to summer grazing with Droimeann cattle as a long-term management strategy for controlling the total cover of bracken and gorse.  Kieran also works with a group of local farmers who carry out path maintenance works in the MacGillycuddy Reeks. This work is vital to the conservation of these upland habitats in terms managing the impacts from the large numbers of people (hillwalkers and other recreational users) that visit the Reeks. Kieran is passionate about raising awareness of upland farming and its long-term viability.  More information and a short film on Kieran’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020

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 since 2018

Louis McAuley (Co.Meath)

Louis McAuley and his family manage a 1700-acre farm in county Meath. Approximately 1400 acres of the land is used for cereal production such as winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, beans and oats. All of the cereal grown on the farm goes to their feed mill where they produce animal feed for cattle, sheep and horses. Up until 6 years ago the farm would have been a conventional plough-based tillage system. At that point, they noticed a decline in soil health and crop yields – “The soil is one of our main assets on the farm. We wanted to introduce a system where we were improving our soil year on year, all the while producing crops.” In 2015 a low disturbance direct drilling system was implemented on the farm, meaning the seeds are sown direct into mulch/stubble and there is no ploughing or major soil disturbance which protects the soil biology and structure. They have also included a 6/7-year crop rotation system, as well as utilizing multi-species cover crops on the land to further regenerate the soil. The cover crops that are in the ground during the summer months produce a variety of flowers which attracts insects to the land. The remaining 300 acres of the farm is grassland, and the family run a dairy calf to beef system of around 200 animals.  Louis is a founding member of BASE Ireland and he is passionate about educating and encouraging farmers to adopt less-intensive tillage systems.  More information on Louis’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

Madeline McKeever & Holly Cairns (Co.Cork)

Madeline McKeever runs an organic 30-acre mixed farm in west Cork along with her daughter Holly Cairns. There is 15 acres of broadleaf forestry on the land, containing oak, alder, ash and nut trees. There is 10 acres of permanent mixed pasture and the remaining land is used for seed production and nature corridors. Madeline keeps a small herd of cattle, producing beef for the home and for a few local customers. The cattle are grazed using Voisin’s rational grazing system, meaning the grass is rested for approximately 30 days before being grazed again. A small amount of silage is cut off the land to provide winter feeding for the animals and the animal manure is used to fertilize the land. External inputs on the farm are extremely low.  Founder of Brown Envelope Seeds, Madeline is one of only two farms in the country producing vegetable seeds. They produce over 100 varieties of organically certified, open pollinated seed which is sold to Irish growers and gardeners around the country.  A wildlife enthusiast all her life, Madeline enjoys seeing an array of birds coming and going to farm, such as choughs, thrushes, chiffchaffs, redwings, fieldfares and lots of other songbirds. The family have planted a diverse range of trees, hedges and fruit bushes on the farm which attract insects like solitary bees, wild honeybees, bumble bees, hoverflies and wasps, all of whom play a crucial role in pollinating the seed crops. Madeleines love of nature is reflected in the low impact, regenerative farming system she runs.  More information on Madeline and Holly’s farm hereAmbassadors since 2021

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 since 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 since 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 since 2019

Michael McManus (Co.Leitrim)

Michael McManus hails from county Leitrim where he farms a suckler herd over 180 acres. The organic farm is comprised of 3 distinct areas. The first is described as ‘rocky outcrop’ land, the second is ‘sandy loam’ land and the third he describes as a ‘shale type’ land. All three of these distinct areas contain their own rich variety of grasses and vegetation. Michael operates a rotational grazing system, whereby the animals are moved from one area to the next throughout the year. They are moved in accordance with the stage of growth they are at or whether they have calves on them at the time – “I firmly believe that having different plant types for cattle to graze on provides them with a wide range of minerals and nutrients. I think cattle have natural curiosity that needs to be satisfied – they enjoy grazing different areas that have different types of vegetation.”  The natural meadows have not been reseeded and provide great biodiversity on the farm. “The grazing of this type of land with cattle helps promote the natural vegetation here. The only management of the land is the cattle grazing, then letting the grasses and flowers grow (buttercup, rushes, meadowsweet and so on) then cutting the meadow for hay/silage later in the summer.” The cattle overwinter outdoors where they are supplemented with some meal and hay/silage.  Michael is interested in agroforestry, permaculture and preserving traditional methods of farming. He values nature, heritage and biodiversity on his farm.  More information on Michael’s farm hereAmbassador since 2021

Mimi & Owen Crawford (Co.Tipperary)

Mimi and Owen Crawford operate Crawford’s Farm. Theirs is a small traditional Irish working farm, comprising of twenty-eight acres in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary.  It is certified organic where they milk about 10-12 cows, keep 15-16 pigs a year, roughly 1000 broilers and 30-40 ducks.  It is a very holistic approach of mixed stock and they believe in diversity in income streams, markets and retailers.  The husband and wife duo focus largely on their micro-dairy, with pedigree Irish Shorthorn cows dominating the pastures producing raw cream, raw butter and raw buttermilk, with all processes completed on-farm. Aside from the dairy aspect, they also engage in beef production with the weanlings with 100% grass-raised beef. They raise organic broiler chickens that follow behind the cows in the grazing rotation, have organic ducks for slug control, organic pigs to assist them to consume excess skim milk. Their traditional working farm incorporates a modern-day approach that works in harmony with nature.  They believe farming should be diverse as nature.  It is an ecosystem as well that is mutually beneficial  and the products speak for themselves.  They feel their consumer like to  buying into the whole process, the story of the farm and they are completely transparent in delivering this.  “We believe Ireland has the opportunity to produce good clean food and we want to be part of that and help others realise that opportunity as well”.  More information on the Crawfords’ farm here.  Ambassadors since 2020

Muller Family (Co.Clare)

Mona and Harry Muller, along with their four children, farm 38.5 hectares of wet grassland in the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Co.Clare. The family farm is situated in a Hen Harrier Special Protected Area and they are members of the Hen Harrier programme since 2018. “The areas of wetland on the farm provide great biodiversity, but the land needs farming in a very sensitive way.” The farm is certified organic and guided by biodynamic principles. On the farm there are horses, goats, sheep, cattle, hens, ducks, turkeys and bees. The animals play an important role in grazing the natural mountain vegetation and providing fertilizer for soil regeneration. Meat, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese is sold direct to the local community via a small on-site farm shop. There is a horticulture enterprise on the farm as well – organic vegetables are sold direct to local customers and the Mullers grow heritage vegetable seeds for Irish Seed Savers.  External inputs on the farm are extremely low. Fodder crops and cereals are grown on the land to provide winter feed for the animals. The Mullers use draft horses to plough the land in place of machinery where possible. The family have worked hard to create a self-sufficient farm that is ecologically and economically viable. “We see our farm as an organism. Where all the different animals and all the different enterprises interlink and support each other and work with each other.”  More information on the Mullers’ farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

Nia O’ Malley (Co.Galway)

Nia O Malley farms 60 hectares in the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Co. Galway. She took over the family farm in 2010. Since then, she has worked incredibly hard to rebuild and regenerate the farm and has done so with respect and consideration for the natural landscape and wildlife of the area. “Something you learn as a hill farmer is you have to adapt to the area – you can’t just come in and change things as you wish… You have to adapt to the land and work with the land, rather than forcing the land to adapt to your farming practices.” Farming in a hen harrier Special Protected Area, Nia joined the Hen Harrier programme in 2018 where she was involved in a mountain grazing project. The trial focused on increasing cattle grazing on areas of bog/heath that are dominated by Molinia grasses and pose serious fire risks. “My involvement with the hen harrier project enabled me to look at my land differently and value what I might not have valued before… The more you graze commonage, the more you will reduce the Molina grass growth and the more you will encourage other grass species to come up. This will eventually extend the grazing season on the mountain.”  Interested in silvopasture and agroforestry, Nia has planted hedgerows and areas of native woodland around the farm.  More information and a film on Nia’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

Nicolas Redmond (Co.Wexford)

Nicholas Redmond is a mixed stock organic farmer from north county Wexford. He farms sheep and Dexter cattle. There are also chickens, donkeys and alpacas on the farm. Approximately 18 acres of the land is under forestry – some an old-growth Oak forest and the rest a mixed broadleaf forest. There is an orchard on the farm and the family grow a variety of fruits and vegetables for the home.  Nicholas operates an extensive farming system and very few external inputs are used on the farm – no chemical fertilizer, no concentrates and minimal machinery. The pasture on the farm is species-rich grassland. The animals are part of a mixed rotational grazing system.  Part of the farm is comprised of a 4-acre traditional hay meadow. This pasture is extremely species-rich and full of native Irish wildflowers and grasses. Nicholas is working with Irish Wildflowers to harvest seed every year from the meadow. These seeds are then redistributed to other farms/areas around the country, helping to ensure the vitality of these species.  The variety of different plants and trees around the land make it extremely biodiverse as well as attracting much wildlife. On the farm there are numerous birds such as buzzards, jaybirds, woodpeckers, wrens, robins, finches, blackbirds and thrushes. There are also foxes, badgers, grey squirrel and hedgehogs. Nicholas is passionate about nature conservation and a firm believer that farming activities should not impact in a negative way on the land – “I would see myself as more of a nature warden who is also a farmer.” More information on Nicholas’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

Noel Kiernan (Co.Longford)

Noel Kiernan farms 250 acres of mixed land – there is forestry, marsh, bogland, pasture and hay meadows. He is passionate about conservation in all forms – from native flora and fauna, to native Irish livestock breeds. He farms and breeds from Roscommon sheep and Bo Riacht cattle – playing a crucial role in ensuring the vitality of these old Irish breeds. The animals are a crucial element of Noels farming system as they graze the pasture and produce manure which fertilizes the soil – “Grazing is very important for certain rare species, such as curlew, corncrake, lapwing, skylark and other ground nesting birds, as well as flora like orchids. All those species have followed us as farmers through the ages and they have benefited from our farming activity. Now, the lack of that type of traditional farming activity means that many of those species will be in trouble because they won’t have suitable habitats.”  Noel is a forester as well as a farmer and he is passionate about combining forestry and farming. There is 100 acres of native broadleaf forestry on the land and Noel runs a continuous forest cover system.  The farm, also referred to as “Noel’s Ark”, holds an impressive array of habitats and wildlife, including but not limited to amphibians, lizards, pine martens, kingfishers, woodcocks, blackcaps, skylarks, marsh fritillary butterflies and various bee species. For years, Noel has dedicated his time and his land to farming in ways that protect and enhance biodiversity – “my farm is open to whatever birds want to come in.”    More information and a film on Noel’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

Norman and Michael Dunne (Co.Kildare)

Norman Dunne along with his father Michael Dunne, run a 400-acre tillage farm outside Maynooth, Co. Kildare. The land has been under intensive tillage production for years. About four years ago Norman and his father decided it was time to move away from conventional, intensive tillage and implement a regenerative farming system operating under the principles of conservation agriculture.  Cereals grown on the farm include beans, oats, barley and wheat for the animal feed market. Norman also produces hay for the equine market. Participants of the Danú EIP Project and members of BASE Ireland, the focus has been on regenerating soil biology and reducing external inputs where possible on the farm. Cereal crops are grown on the land using minimal disturbance methods like direct drilling and/or min-till. Crop rotations and permanent organic soil cover systems are in place. Additionally, multi-species cover crops are used to build soil fertility and enhance soil structure, all the while providing a food source for pollinating insects. Norman is also experimenting with Biodynamic preparations and Korean Natural Farming methods to enhance the soil biology and to inoculate seeds before sowing.  Since the reintroduction of regenerative farming methods on the land, there has been a significant increase in biodiversity and a return of numerous bird species to the farm – “Biodiversity has exploded on the land here in the past 3 or 4 years”. Norman and Michael have enjoyed seeing the return of barn owls, skylarks, sparrowhawks, kestrels, buzzards, woodpeckers, wood pigeons, lapwings, yellowhammers and more.  More information and a film on Dunnes’ farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

Oliver Nagle (Co.Clare)

Oliver and his family farm 121 acres of winterage, meadow and pasture on the Burren at Slieve Carran, Co. Clare. He has been involved in the Burren Programme since it began and manages his land in a way that exemplifies farming for nature. Oliver has done a variety of conservation actions on the farm, including restoring old field systems and protecting natural springs. He is passionate about nature and shares his knowledge freely with the next generation through farm walks with Botany students from NUIG. In doing this, he is spreading a real understanding of what it means to farm for nature among the next generation. Oliver won the national ‘Farming Together with Biodiversity’ award in recognition for his efforts in conservation farming in February 2019. More information and a short film on Oliver’s farm hereAmbassador since 2019

Olly Nolan (Co.Dublin)

Olly started his 8.5 acre farm in 2012 and since then has been developing it into a self-sufficient farm with nature and wildlife in mind. He has planted over a thousand native trees. He has converted a disused sand arena into an organic vegetable garden, planted an orchard with mainly traditional fruit trees and keeps a small herd of Irish Dexters and a couple of rare breed pigs. Although not organically certified, the farm is run organically, recycling everything and producing its own compost and mulches. Olly keeps a large number of beehives around Dublin/ Wicklow mountains, helping to pollinate the heather on Wicklow Mountains National Park. His ‘honey house’ is completely powered by solar panels. He harvests rain water from all the buildings to use in the veg garden and water the animals so as not to take too much ground water from the well. He makes his own hay or silage and never cuts before July to allow nesting birds a chance to rear their young.    More information and a short film on Olly’s farm hereAmbassador since 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 since 2018

Pádraic Ó Flaithearta (Co.Galway)

Pádraic Ó Flaithearta runs a small suckler farm on Inis Mór, Co. Galway. The farm is predominantly composed of orchid-rich calcareous grasslands and machair, two priority habitats under the EU Habitats Directive, as a result 51.78ha of his 55ha holding is designated as a Special Area of Conservation. Pádraic’s management is responsible for the conservation of some of the best examples of calcareous grassland in Ireland. The machair is home to a significant number of breeding lapwings as well as three species of terns, plover, wheatear and skylarks – Pádraic managed his grazing regime to minimise disturbance he also actively monitors the populations of these bird species as well as the negative influences such as predation by hooded crows and overgrazing by rabbits. Pádraic manages the species-rich grassland to maximise species diversity addressing the many negative influences that can reduce species diversity, this includes active scrub control, targeted grazing and minimising nutrient input. More information and a short film on Pádraic’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2019

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 since 2018

Pat McKenna (Co.Monaghan)

Pat Mckenna farms a Dexter suckler herd in Co. Monaghan. The farm is situated on 60 acres of marginal land at the foothills of Sliabh Beagh. The herd consists of about 90 cattle and Pat operates a calf to beef system. The premium Dexter beef is sold direct to restaurants and local customers.  Last year Pat took part in the Sliabh Beagh conservation grazing trial. The objective of this trial is to reduce fire risks on the mountain. Sliabh Beagh is also a hen harrier protected area. “Using cattle and a conservation grazing system on the mountain aims to improve the habitat by breaking down the pasture, loosening it and opening it up.” This means there is more life on the ground thus providing a better chance for the hen harrier and other ground nesting birds.  Pat operates a low input farming system. No chemical fertilizer is used on the land. The only inputs are farmyard manure, slurry and dry bedding. Pat’s farm is located in a curlew protected area, as such he does not cut any grass until July/August. There is a traditional hay meadow on the farm of about 7 acres. There was 12 acres of broadleaf forestry planted 8 years ago, which provides a habitat for many birds and creatures.  More information on Pat’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

Pat Lalor (Co.Westmeath)

Pat Lalor has just under 300 acres in Co. Westmeath which he converted to organic 20 years ago. Pat describes organic farming as working with respect for the soil and he is totally committed to this practice; using farmyard manure from his cattle to grow clover, cereal and grass on rotation. He has half the farm in arable and half in beef where he keeps 130 weanlings for a year. Through this he has built up a thriving ‘field to fork’ business – Ballard Organic Farm. Pat sells his produce under the label ‘Kilbeggan Organic Foods’ and the range includes the award-winning Kilbeggan Porridge, porridge bread mix and handmade oat biscuits. He has added value to his product as it is under his own brand and it is 100% theirs with no imports. This side of the business involves Pat’s wife and children and their products are available in retail outlets and on-line. Pat is a strong advocate for organic farming. He operated an open farm for 20 years, welcoming school groups, agricultural students and interested members of the public, always willing to share his knowledge and experience of organic farming. “Whilst conventional farming is about the chemistry of the soil, organic farming is about the biology of the soil. When Birdwatch Ireland did a survey of songbirds there were 32/33 present – three times more than the average conventional farm.”  More information on Pat’s farm here.   Ambassador since 2020

Patrick Frankel (Co.Cork)

Patrick Frankel runs Kilbrack Organic Farm with his partner Judith and their young family. This is a 145-acre farm in Doneraile, Co. Cork. His main focus is a wide a range of organic vegetables with 45 crops throughout the seasons, that he sales directly to consumers and supplies 26 restaurants in Cork city and the surrounding areas. He also has shorthorn cattle which he sells at 30-months, and a beech and oak woodland. Patrick has a deep interest in biodiversity, soil heath and sustainable food production. He grows in a walled garden combining an orchard with potatoes and a wide range of vegetables including leeks, kale, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes, french beans and salad leaves. He has 4 polytunnels that specialise in overwinter salads, and summer crops such as peppers, tomatoes and aubergines. The diversity in produce at Kilbrack is outstanding while enhancing the diversity in the surrounding agroecological system. “I am amazed by what can come off relatively small piece of land. What it gives back over and over if you look after it. The market is not filled, there is so much demand for organics, there is so much opportunity here without importing. I have faith in farmers that they will adapt to our changing climate as they are in touch with elements and will react.” Patrick and Judith are keen on educating others on market gardening with up to 50 Woofers each year coming to the farm.  More information and a short film on Patrick’s farm here.   Ambassador since 2020

Patsy Carrucan (Co.Clare)

Patsy farms 200 acres of rough winterage grassland and lowland grassland in Fanore, Co.Clare. Patsy is very proud of the Burren, his homeland and he has worked tirelessly to help develop a results-based agri-environment programme as an active contributor to the BurrenLIFE Project and Burren Programme. On his own farm Patsy has adjusted his grazing and feeding regimes to encourage greater biodiversity outcomes on his upland and lowland grasslands, using his management skills and experience to do so. He is also very mindful of the built heritage of the area and has restored shelter walls, boundary walls and placed traditional Burren Style gates around his farm, greatly improving the visual nature of the landscape for locals and visitors to enjoy. “Outwintering the stock on Winterage grassland keeps the cost of wintering animals at a very low level but also frees up a lot of time for our other work and community involvement. Over 100 acres of the farm is in an archaeological complex which strengthens our bond with past and our caring for what we want to leave behind us. Every day I walk out on the farm here in Fanore, I am inspired by the beauty of the area I live in and I ask myself, how did I get to be so lucky to be able to bring up a family in this wonderful landscape and why would I not want to leave it to the next generation in as good a condition, if not better, than the condition in which I received it?” More information on Patsy’s farm here.   Ambassador since 2020

Paul Moore (Co.Cork)

Paul Moore runs a tillage and beef farm near Middleton county Cork. The mixed 140-acre farm is comprised of 95 acres of tillage, producing malting barley, spring beans, winter barley and oilseed rape. Paul has recently began incorporating regenerative practices on the farm such as the use of multi-species cover crops, longer crop rotations and strip-tilling the spring beans. The remaining 45 acres is mature grassland and is used to produce 35 Hereford and Angus beef cattle.  A wildlife and bird enthusiast all his life, Paul is passionate about nature conservation and managing habitats on his farm. Over the years he has planted trees on the land, managed hedgerows for birds, incorporated wildflower margins around field boundaries and increased the nature corridors where possible on the farm. The land is home to many bird species, many of whom are becoming scare in the Irish countryside. There are barn owls, stock doves, swifts, ravens, buzzards, reed buntings, yellowhammers, meadow pipits, stonechats, starlings, house sparrows and more. Foxes, stoats, shrews and rabbits are also a common sight on the farm.  Paul is an advocate for an economically viable and productive farming system, that simultaneously protects farmland habitats and enhances biodiversity on Irish farms. “My whole mantra would be – you don’t have to manage a nature reserve, if every farmer did a little and did it properly, it would all add up and have an impact.”  More information and a short film on Paul’s farm here.   Ambassador since 2021

Rod and Julie Calder-Potts (Co.Kilkenny)

Located in county Kilkenny on land steeped in family history, Highbank Farm have been producing organic apples on the family farm since the 70s. Rod and Julie Calder-Potts are prime examples of farmers who have diversified their farm, creating an enterprise that is ecologically and economically viable.  Their organic orchard supplies them with apples for artisan apple juice, apple syrup, apple cider, vinegars and much more, almost all of which are processed on the farm. They have more recently built a distillery on the farm and are now producing apple gin, apple brandy and apple vodka.  Respect for and connection with nature is at the heart of the farm – “All of our production is to the strictest of organic standards. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, neither are any herbicides or chemical fertilizers used.” They continuously work to enhance biodiversity on the farm. They have built two lakes, planted forestry all around the farm and sowed pollinator friendly flowers to encourage solitary bees amongst other insects. There is a wonderfully diverse range of wildlife on the farm, including a badger set, snipe, otters, kingfishers, raptors, buzzards, crows, rooks, jackdaws, ravens, magpies, jays, woodcock, as well as a wide range of insects and fungi.  Rod and Julie are passionate about supporting small-scale Irish farmers and producers. They welcome visitors from near and far to their farm and run farm walks, talks, events and workshops throughout the year.  More information on the Calder-Potts’ farm here.   Ambassador since 2021

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 since 2018

Shackleton Family (Co.Cavan)

The Shackleton family farm 320-acres and have been providing organic grass-fed beef and lamb to their customer since 1996. Grazing traditional breeds Aberdeen Angus and Belted Galloway occurs on 60ha of the farm. The farm also has 5ha of semi-natural habitats including bogs, wetland (Mullagh Lake), woodland, hedgerows, hay meadows and stonewalls, all of which are managed by owners who have qualifications in ecology, landscape design and environmental management. New habitats have been created, such as a 20ha mixed conifer and hardwood woodland which is managed as agroforestry; hedgerows and an ornamental garden which supports a varied bird population. The farm has a traditional orchard, bee hive and is self-sufficient in vegetables. Monitoring of birds and insects for Biodiversity Ireland is ongoing. The farm is also open for farm walks for IOGFA, Bord Bia and others. A boardwalk and birdwatching hide have been constructed along the lake edge. A publicly assessable nature walk passes through the farm and the explanatory information panel along this route in the farm is curated by the owners. The Shackletons are fully committed to their approach to farming and enthusiastic to share this knowledge and experience online, with groups, the local community and schools. They believe “Farming extensively is the future, it is better for the bank, the life balance, the herd and most importantly the wildlife”.  More information and a short film on their farm here.   Ambassadors since 2020

Sinéad Moran and Michael McGrath (Co.Mayo)

Sinéad Moran & Mick McGrath own a micro-dairy with a herd of traditional breed cows on 40-acres of high nature value farmland in Co. Mayo where they sell raw organic milk direct to customer. They are passionate about conserving the species-rich grass, mature trees and both retaining and enhancing biodiversity that is found on their farm. The land has been in Mick’s family for years and was never farmed intensively. The ground hasn’t been re-seeded, overstocked, fields widen or hedges removed. The land has an old orchard, an old cottage, granary and mature trees dominate all but a few boundaries. This landscape relies on grazing animals and they manage it in a way that both conserves and preserves the land’s biodiversity through holistic grazing while still producing nutrient-rich food for direct sale to the local community.  “Our rich yellow butter is down to both the traditional breeds we use but also the diversity they eat… if anyone wants to something to farm better for nature, then definitely include more diversity both in the animals and what they eat”.  Sinéad is passionate about environmental issues and climate activism, and has open up her farm as a place of educating others on what they can do to mitigate climate change.  More information and a short film on their farm here.   Ambassadors since 2020

Stephen Morrison (Co.Kildare)

Stephen is a full time farmer with an 80 cow suckler herd, taking all progeny to finish.  He is not organic but is transitioning away from inputs.  He also has a tillage and forestry enterprise in place. Whilst the farm is busy and productive, Stephen farms in a balanced way that he has a low impact on the wildlife that live and breed on these lands. He continues to add biodiversity each year. He has fenced off the watercourses on the farm and allowed riparian margins to develop along these areas. “The biggest eyeopener for me was when I fenced off the water courses what I noticed was how much nature just came back and took hold over the years” He has dug out a network of ponds in an area of fen to provide a habitat of any aquatic species that may colonise this special area.  He planted 18 acres of native woodlands, also has a 2-acre plot that is in wildbird cover for the past three years. Additionally, a wildbird area has been planted with bushes and trees specifically chosen for their potential to provide nuts and seeds for birds located alongside the Hartwell Stream that flows through the farm. The most recent addition has been a forest garden planted last winter – the acre plot is full of bushes and trees but each one of the 150 plants will produce fruit, nuts or seeds.  “It is about giving nature a chance, and sometimes it is more about what you don’t do than what you do”.  More information and a short film on Stephen’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020 

Suzanna Crampton (Co.Kilkenny)

Suzanna’s farm is near Bennetts Bridge, in Co. Kilkenny. The farm’s species-rich meadows and pastures, woodlands, parkland, and numerous stand-alone mature trees, form a haven for local wildlife. She farms 12 acres on which she has 30 ewes and followers. They have access to a mixed sward with 17 different species of grasses alone. Suzanna practices regenerative agriculture with a rare breed of sheep that is triflective (milk, meat, fleece). She designs blankets from the wool that she has won awards for over the years. Additionally, a decades-old traditional orchard provides bountiful fruit and further herb-rich grazing for her sheep, with mature hedges that add even more habitat diversity for native plants, insects and birds. Suzanna regularly undertakes public engagements speaking to local, national and international audiences about regenerative farming.   More information and a short film on Suzanna’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2019

Thomas Fouhy (Co.Cork)

Thomas is an organic, min-till, stockless, arable farmer with 84 acres in north Co. Cork. Apart from the many trees and hedgerows on his land, he proactively farms all available ground. Nature takes advantage of how well he manages the delicate balance of building and maintaining soil health. Thomas crops on a 10-year flexible rotation that includes speciality crops like grain-lupins, linseed, lentils, sunflowers, as well as the standard grain crops. He has 10 acres of just flowers! He demonstrates the breadth of largely unexplored crops we can produce in Ireland and highlights our potential to produce our own protein crops, reducing our reliance on imported soy. The soil is never bare for long, crops are under-sown with red clover, and diverse winter cover-crop mixes fill the gaps between the cash crops. Many of the cash-crops and the cover-crops are flowering, providing great seasonal diversity for pollinators. Thomas’s farming is truly productive, profitable, and works in sync with nature – a real symbiosis. He is a shining example of how innovative and cutting edge organic arable farming can be. Thomas tells a story of how a hedgehog followed by her prickle of hoglets nonchalantly rambled past him on his farm lane one day – then he knew he must be doing something right!  More information on Thomas’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020

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 since 2019 

Thomas Keane (Co.Galway)

Tom Keane farms in the Dawros catchment in Connemara. He farms 160 mountain ewes on a mosaic of high nature value peatlands and wet grasslands and is a participant of the Pearl Mussel Project EIP. The Pearl Mussel Project rewards farmers for the ecological quality of their land, which in turn contributes to the pristine water quality needed by the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. Tom’s system of farming has maintained and enhanced large areas of active Atlantic blanket bog, achieving a score of 10/10 on the Pearl mussel peatland score card for much of it. This is an excellent example of perfectly intact peatland which is farmed in a manner to benefit both the stock and the land. Tom is very passionate about where he farms, he feels one of the best things about farming in this area is the wild nature of the area.  He ensures his stock are rotated regularly and works with nature to get the best from his land.  Tom is a farmer with a strong understanding of the crucial importance of his land management to the environment. He notices and knows nature, as he does farming, recognising not just the challenges but the rewards of hill farming.  More information and a short film on Thomas’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020

Thomas Stack (Co.Limerick)

Thomas Stack is a dairy farmer from Co. Limerick. Having taken over the family farm in 2012 and farming conventionally for a few years, he decided something had to change. He embarked on an ambitious journey to transform his farm into a system that is resilient to environmental and financial shocks. Thomas transitioned to organic farming in 2018 and since then he has adopted the Korean Natural Farming method. This regenerative approach uses indigenous microorganisms (IMO) to create fertile soils that produce a high output without the use of synthetic fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides. “You can’t see these microbes. The only way you can see them is under the microscope and they’re the most powerful thing in the world…to see how they have transformed my farm in a year and a half – it’s mind-blowing.” Thomas creates IMO solutions that are highly rich in nutrients and enzymes, he sprays these solutions on the land, working in tune with the nutrient cycle of the plants. Thomas milks 60 dairy cows on virtually no external inputs. His cows are entirely grass-fed and he produces high quality organic milk. He creates his own nutritional supplements for his animals using only natural inputs and processes. “I use the land and nature to produce all my inputs on the farm and to enhance the soil biology”. Thomas has planted over 1000 native trees on the land to support biodiversity and encourage more wildlife back to the farm. He regularly hosts farm visits for those interested in learning more about this dynamic farming system.  More information on Thomas’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2021

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 since 2019

Trevor Harris (Co.Kildare)

Trevor runs two farms, there is the home farm, 140-acres, which is cattle and sheep both organic and biodynamic certified.  He grazes the two together, selling his beef directly and the lamb is through ICM.  It is a mixed enterprise with 12 acres in forestry and 40acres in cereal – he sells his oats to Flavahans and his barley to make a biodynamic whiskey. The second farm is horticultural land, 14 acres outdoors and 1500sqm indoors, where he is growing vegetables for restaurants, a box scheme and retail. On both farms, Trevor is passionate about soil health which is to the fore in his approach to management of his enterprise, the focus is to build resilience in the soil through diversity. “I feel it is so important to build the fertility in the soil as where there is a good biome, the produce will taste better.” This involves getting the right mineral balance and physical soil structure to encourage soil biology to flourish. Diversity of plants also encourages diversity in the insect and bird communities which helps keep everything in balance so that no one species will dominate and cause problems for the farm crops.    He has planted trees and hedges. He has planted an oak woodland (3 acres). He has established a small orchard with a native meadow underneath. He believes “one thing we can all do is just leave our hedgerows grow and flourish”. Trevor produces good yields without any chemical inputs.  More information and a short film on Trevor’s farm here.  Ambassador since 2020

 

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