The Farming for Nature (FFN) project is delighted to welcome Cork farmers, Madeline McKeever and Holly Cairns to their growing Ambassador network.
“Holly and I are honoured to be ambassadors for Farming for Nature. Being recognised for our efforts encourages us to do better and we have been busy planting more trees for shelter, and making plans for a farm pond. We will be looking out for the swallows returning to nest in the abandoned mobile home and watching the recently planted hedges grow and start to support more wildlife.” Madeline McKeever
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.
Now in its fourth year, Farming For Nature was set up with an aim to source, share and celebrate the stories of farmers across Ireland who manage their land in a way that sustains nature, while providing a livelihood for their family. Madeline and Holly are part of this year’s 23 ambassadors that come from across Ireland and include beef, sheep, forestry, dairy, horticulture and tillage farmers who manage a wide range of very valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows. The Farming For Nature ambassador network is made up of family farms, couples, and both male and female farmers.
FFN is featuring their Ambassadors on a bi-monthly basis until August 2022. Keep an eye on FFN’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter platforms to learn more about these wonderful farmers and the valuable work they are doing for nature on their land. FFN will work with these inspiring ambassadors to produce farm videos, podcasts, ‘Ask the Farmer’ sessions, farm walks and more. Go to www.farmingfornature.ie to learn about this incredible network of Ambassador farmers and to access further information, resources and tips.
The Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network.