The Farming for Nature (FFN) project is delighted to welcome Kildare farmer, Graham Harris to their growing Ambassador network.
“I firmly believe if I can get the soil right, then I don’t have to worry about much else.” says Graham Harris on the power of soil regeneration in running a productive sheep and tillage farm.
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.
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. Graham is 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 June 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.