Farming for Nature (FFN) is a national initiative which highlights the positive role that some farmers play in looking after nature on their land and which shares – through short films, podcasts and farm walks – the invaluable, practical insights gained by these farmers in tackling our biodiversity crisis. Now in its third year, FFN has grown to an active network of over 20 wonderful, eloquent Ambassadors who are inspiring many other farmers across Ireland to be more aware of nature on their land. FFN wants to further expand this network in 2020 and are seeking nominations of farmers who are going that extra mile for nature.
The FFN Ambassador awards are sponsored by Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme and the wider FFN initiative (www.farmingfornature.ie), which includes a range of farmer-friendly resources, is supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network.
One of the founders of, and volunteers with, FFN, Dr. Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme, explained that ‘for the past two years, with Bord Bia’s support, we have been able to acknowledge and celebrate farmers across Ireland who are doing great things for nature. Seeing and hearing these farmers share their love of nature, and knowing that they work day in day out to make sure nature has a place on their farms, is really inspiring – to me these people are our unsung conservation heroes. At FFN we want to share these stories to inspire other farmers as we are convinced that, with the appropriate, targeted financial and technical support, farmers represent a great resource in tacking our biodiversity and climate crises’.
Another member of the organising group, Dr James Moran of GMIT, noted the opportune timing of the Award: ‘The Common Agricultural Policy is increasingly recognising farmers as more than food producers and aims to incentivise enhancement of the countryside. Recent initiatives around Ireland including EU LIFE projects, results-based payment schemes for biodiversity and DAFM European Innovation Partnerships have highlighted the real appetite there is for farming for nature. Many farmers are already farming for nature and this is an opportunity to celebrate their achievements on a national scale.’
Thomas O’Connor, a Farming For Nature Ambassador and winner of the public vote from 2019, explained the importance FFN to him and his family ‘It’s great to be able to meet all these people who think the same way as we do. Delighted to win the public vote but the real winning was been nominated and meeting like-minded farmers from across the country and spectrum of farming systems. For us it was a privilege to be there with such high-class people engaged with their land.”
Describing the Farming for Nature Awards process, Project co-ordinator Brigid Barry explained the nomination and selection process for the award ‘Farmers will be nominated by a panel of over 200 heritage specialists across Ireland and then shortlisted based on agreed criteria. We are hoping to hear about farmers who do great things for nature, who farm in a manner that is agriculturally, economically and socially progressive, and who are willing to share their story with others. Short videos ten shortlisted farmers will then be made and used as part of an online voting system by the public in early Autumn.