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John Commins is a fourth-generation farmer from County Tipperary. Blackcastle Farm is a 120-acre beef farm. John keeps a herd of Piedmontese cattle producing beef that is slaughtered locally and butchered on the farm. The high-quality beef is sold direct to customers via an online shop, and they also supply a number of retailers including Aldi. “What I want to do is prove that an Irish family beef farm is environmentally and economically sustainable.” The farm is extensively managed and external inputs are very low. No chemical insecticides or pesticides have been used on the farm in some 20 years.
John is passionate about farming in ways that protect biodiversity and wildlife on the land. He believes that there is a lot to be learned from older generations and traditional ways of working the land. Thick hedgerows line the fields and John values these as very important habitat for birds and other creatures. Hay is cut off the land every year and fed to the cattle during the winter – “We cut hay from the land every year and the main reason we do this is to give wildlife, mostly hares and pheasant on our farm, a chance to rear their young in the late summer months.” There is an ancient ringfort on the farm which is left untouched. There is also an acre of wildflowers on the land which attracts many pollinating insects to the farm. Passionate about education and demonstrating how nature and faming can go hand in hand, John hosts annual farm tours for local primary and secondary schools.
Nicky Murphy is a lifelong farmer from Johnswell County Kilkenny. He manages a conventional dairy farm milking 70 cows. There is some dry and some very wet grassland on the farm. Nicky grows about 10 acres of corn every year which supplements winter feeding for the animals. There is a piggery on the farm which is run by his brother, and the pig and cattle slurry generated on the farm fertilizes most of the land thus reducing the use of artificial nitrogen to a minimum. There is about 30 acres of mixed forestry on the land.
Nicky would have farmed conventionally for most of his life, never taking too much notice of the wildlife that inhabited the farm. Three years ago, however, he discovered a pair of breeding barn owls in an old beech tree, and this awakened in him and his family a tremendous curiosity and passion for wildlife and biodiversity on the land. This brought Nicky down a new path, one which he never would have imagined himself travelling – “As you become more tuned in to the sounds of nature, you being to observe more and more wildlife on the farm.” He has eliminated the use of rat poison on the farm. He has made numerous nest boxes for the barn owls and other birds and placed them around the farm. He has continuously planted trees all around the farm and has re-incorporated hedgerows where they had been removed some years ago. Nicky fences off field corners allowing them to grow wild and provide food and habitat for insects and birds. Parts of the farm are fenced off and left purely for biodiversity. Nicky is proud of the simple changes he has made to protect wildlife on the land, without compromising the productivity of his family farm.
Gerry Fitzsimons is an organic beef farmer from Co Cavan. Having farmed conventionally for some years and seeing the damage that some of the conventional farming practices were having on nature on his land, he decided to go organic and farm in a more holistic manner. Gerry used to run suckler farm, but he now buys in a small number of angus bullocks every year and fattens them on the farm before selling them, mostly direct to customers via his meat scheme. Gerry has been running a grass-fed beef system for some 20 years. There is about 6 acres of birch woodland on the farm, and the land ranges from some good grassland to heavy land to bogland. Even though a lot of the grassland was reseeded in the 90s, a lot of plant diversity has returned to the pasture and Gerry now has some good multi species pasture again. The farming system is very extensive and external inputs are minimal. The cattle are in for a very short period over winter where they are bedded on rushes cut from the land. Some haylage is cut every year to supplement winter feeding.
There is lots of space for biodiversity and wildlife on the farm, from bog and ponds to thick hedges, pockets of woodland and an orchard. Gerry is delighted to have a pair of nesting buzzards on the land. There are lots of frogs and newts on the farm, as well as badgers, foxes, rabbits and hares. Gerry and his family take a holistic approach to life and are passionate about protecting nature in any way possible – “Anything that I can do to encourage better care of our environment, on or off the farm, I’m happy to do it.”
Sean Gilligan and Rob Kennedy
Sean Gilligan and Rob Kenedy are two friends from Co. Sligo who have recently taken on a joint farming venture in Strandhill. Having started this project in 2020, they now have a productive mixed farm producing vegetables, eggs, beef and pork. There is a 1-acre market garden on the farm, and the lads are growing 21 different vegetable crops this year. They keep 400 layers in a moveable egg mobile, meaning the hens are moved to fresh pasture every day. Fresh, chemical-free eggs and veg are sold on-site in their farm shop and at the local farmer’s market. This year they have brought a small number of cattle and pigs on to the farm and the plan is to start a meat box scheme with their pasture raised stock. The majority of the land is in grassland, most of which is permanent pasture, and the cattle are mob grazed. There is about 1/3 of an acre of old woodland on the farm which is an important habitat for birds and other wildlife. This is a highly productive farm and the farming model being implemented by Sean and Rob is one that is not only environmentally friendly but also economically viable as well.Read more about Sean Gilligan and Rob Kennedy
Moira Hart runs Wexford Lavender Farm near Gorey County Wexford. The farm developed from Moira’s interest in flowers and gardening. In 2013, Moira planted one field of lavender and opened the farm to the public in 2014. Another field of lavender was planted in 2018 and now there is a total of 4 acres of lavender on the farm. There is a variety of different species of lavender growing on the farm, providing different flowers, colours, scents and so on. The farm is certified organic and there are no external inputs required. Management of the lavender plants requires year-round weeding and cutting back the plants in September time. A small number of lavender oils and cosmetics are produced on site. Farm visitor numbers are increasing every year. There is an on-site café and visitors can purchase bunches of fresh or dried lavender from the farm. Moira employs seasonal staff during the busy time of year. The farm is a haven for pollinating insects in the summer months – “The lavender attracts tremendous numbers of bumblebees during the summer months.” A local beekeeper keeps a few hives on the farm. The red kite and buzzard and often seen overhead and the woodland next to the farm attracts many songbirds to the land.Read more about Moira Hart
Lisa Gifford grew up in the U.S., but her Irish roots brought her back to the land in 2016 and she bought a small farm in County Leitrim – “When I came to Ireland many years ago, the beauty of the place touched a sympathetic cord in my heart and I said to myself maybe someday I will come back. And here I am.” Lisa manages the smallholding with her daughter Gypsy Gifford and daughter-in-law Richelle South. There is a range of stock on the farm including goats, sheep, pigs and chickens. The main commercial aspect of the farm is milking goats and producing farmhouse goats cheese that is sold direct to customers at local farmers markets. Lisa is particularly interested in rare-breed goats such as the Irish Goat. Much of the grassland is diverse in plant, grass and herb species, and the remaining land will be reseeded with a multispecies mix suitable for goats. The pigs were introduced this year, and they are naturally tilling the grassland in need of improvement. External inputs are low and the farm is very extensively managed. There are mature hedgerows around the farm and they are planting trees on the land and in field corners to provide shelter and improve soil structure, as well as creating additional habitat for wildlife. The plan is to retrofit an old farm building and to convert it into a micro dairy, then to increase the herd of goats and the quantity of goats cheese. Lisa takes great pride in the diversity of this farming system, as well as the fresh, natural product created on the farm.Read more about Lisa Gifford
Michael Keegan (Luggala Estate)
Michael Keegan is farm manager of Luggala Estate in county Wicklow. The 5000-acre estate was purchased by Luggala Estate Ltd. in 2019 and currently three full-time staff are undertaking a large restoration project on the land – “This is likely the largest privately owned restoration project in the country.” Luggala estate is a mix of upland blanket bog, dry heath, acid grassland, meadows, mixed woodlands some of which are native and some conifer plantations. There are also two large lakes and two rivers running through the land. A baseline study of habitat condition has informed decisions on the management of the estate. Michael is now implementing an extensive environmental management plan throughout the entire estate. Actions to date include heather cutting to benefit red grouse and other species, treatment of the invasive Rhododendron plants in the woodland, bruising and treatment of bracken, repair and restoration of the traditional drystone walls on the estate, management of deer population including the culling of unhealthy animals, tagging and recording of raptors in conjunction with the NPWS, gathering seeds from native trees and shrubs on the estate for propagation and woodland restoration and gully planting with native trees and shrubs – “In terms of reforestation, we are targeting areas of the estate where there would have been woodland previously and we are replanting in those areas. The idea being to join the areas of woodland creating wildlife corridors throughout the estate.” Future plans include the incorporation of cattle to the land as a means of conservation grazing, re-wetting of blanket bog areas, additional planting of native trees and conversion of plantations to broadleaves.
Michael is actively involved in the local farming community, and he is very keen to share the story and development of Luggala Estate as an example for upland restoration, nature conservation and delivering various ecosystem services.
Granamore Commonage Group
Granamore commonage groups consists of 10 farmers who farm commonage in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The commonage is 1132 acres in total and the farmers involved are sheep farmers. The group was formed as part of their participation in the SUAS EIP Project, with the aim of coming together collectively to improve the commonage that they manage. The group hold regular meetings to organise the grazing and management actions of the commonage. As part of their participation in SUAS, these farmers are taking numerous actions to protect and enhance biodiversity on the land. Heather and gorse are being managed manually with bush cutters, mineral licks are used to encourage the sheep into areas of dense heather where they trample the thick heather thus allowing space for other vegetation to grow, bog roads on the hill have been restored and grazing management has been altered to protect upland habitats. The group have planted native trees around the uplands to stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, filter water, improve biodiversity and create habitats. Involvement in the EIP has given these farmers a greater appreciation for the land they manage, and they have gained a deeper appreciation for biodiversity, water quality, carbon storage and the upland habitats and wildlife in the area.Read more about Granamore Commonage Group
Richard & Brid Duff
Richard Duff recently took the decision to move away from farming and is dedicating some of his farmland and most of his time to a wildlife project on his land. Much of the farm has now been rented out to a neighbouring farmer. Richard keeps about 30 heifers over the summer months and sells them on in the autumn time. The farm is now very extensively managed and external inputs are minimal. The main focus has now shifted to observing and recoding the tremendous amount of wildlife on the farm and a wildlife photography project called Irish Photography Hides.
Richard has always been interested in nature. He works with Birdwatch Ireland and the National Biodiversity Data Center recording insect, bird and mammal species on and off the farm. Thick and mature hedgerows around the land provide an important habitat for much of the wildlife, and Richard has sown wild bird cover crops for about 20 years which provides extra food for wildlife over the winter months. Frequent residents and visitors to the farm include the stoat, pine martin, red squirrel, an impressive variety of bird species including owls, buzzards, sparrowhawks, and many garden and farmland birds. “The yellowhammer has returned to the farm after being missing for years. I saw 8 pairs of yellowhammers in the bird cover crop last winter.” Richard has recently constructed a bat roost inside a refurbished Lime Kiln which he hopes will attract bats to the land. He takes great pride in the quantity and variety of wildlife that he has recorded and photographed on his farm.
Mark Gillanders runs a mixed organic farm in County Monaghan. About 75 acres of cereals are grown on the farm and the remainder of the land is permanent pasture and clover/multispecies pasture. Mark runs a suckler herd of about 20 cattle and the stock are very extensively managed. Red clover silage produces winter feeding for the cattle who are indoors for just a few weeks over the winter months. Organic oats are grown and supplied to Flahavans. Organic wheat is grown on the farm and is locally milled into strong Irish flour and sold in the Irish consumer market. Mark has incorporated rotational combi crops into the farming system, mainly wheat and beans growing together, which are separated leaving the wheat for flour and the beans for animal protein, thus reducing the amount of imported protein. There is about 5 acres of uncultivated wetland on the farm which is left for biodiversity and wildlife. Thick hedgerows are managed for biodiversity and along with pockets of woodland they make up nature corridors running throughout the farm. Since converting to organic in 2009, Mark has observed a significant increase biodiversity on the land – “The farm has improved tremendously in terms of biodiversity on the land, as well as climate and economic resilience.” Mark achieved a Master of Science in Organic Farming from Scotland’s Rural College in 2019. He is proud to run a farm that produces high quality food for human consumption as well as providing for local wildlife and biodiversity.Read more about Mark Gillanders
Martin Crowe is a 4th generation farmer from Carrigmore County Limerick. He runs a conventional dairy farm, currently milking 200 British Frisian cows and rearing replacement heifers on the farm. The farm is approximately 143ha, most of which is good limestone free draining land. Martin has worked hard to increase biodiversity on his land in recent years – “Overtime I realised that some of my farming practices were not the best for nature. Farming is a constant learning journey. I am learning new things about nature every year and continuously trying to adapt my farming practices accordingly.” He is incorporating multi-species leys and clovers into the grassland to reduce his artificial fertilizer usage. He has planted groves of trees and a few hundred meters of hedgerows on the farm, recognising their importance from a soil structure, shelterbelt and habitat point of view. He dug a 0.5-acre pond on the land last year and is excitedly observing the development of this water habitat on the farm. The mature hedgerows are managed for biodiversity and wildlife. There is a river running through part of the farm and there is a buffer zone in place to protect the watercourse.
Martin is proud to run a productive and efficient farm, all the while working hard to protect and enhance biodiversity on the land – “I have always considered myself privileged to work with nature every day.” He is passionate about community and heavily involved in local community projects. He is also an agricultural consultant and a participant in the Mulkear EIP.
Tommy is an arable farmer from Co Tipperary. Having decided to stop ploughing a number of years ago and move to a strip tillage system, he has in more recent years moved to a no-till system. Along his route of transition he has adapted conservation agriculture principles into his system. Covercrops, minimum tillage, good crop rotations, soil balancing and pollination strips are all high on the agenda on Tommys farm. He also runs his farm on a low input system, reducing his risk and costs by brewing his own extracts, bio fertilisers, ferments, trace minerals and biological seed dressing. Topped off with his own homemade compost is the icing on the cake to an over all beneficial system for environment, biodiversity, ecology, water quality and of course nature.Read more about Thomas Tierney
James Forrest farms in the Glaskeelan Catchment near Letterkenny in County Donegal. The 140-acre farm contains a mix of land, ranging from bog to wet grassland to some better grassland. James runs a flock of 120 lowland ewes, producing and selling store lambs. The farming system is conventional and extensive. Silage is cut off the better land and external inputs are low.
James is a participant farmer in the Pearl Mussel EIP, a project that rewards farmers for the ecological quality of their land, which in turn contributes to the pristine water quality needed by the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. James has carried out over 2km of drain blocking to aid peatland restoration on his farm as part of the project. He is also working to remove invasive rhododendron plants from the land. James takes great pride in playing an important role in protecting an endangered species like the freshwater pearl mussel. He wishes to hand over the farm to his daughter in better condition in which he found it, and he encourages her to do the same. “I encourage my daughter to look after the farm and use the land wisely. And most importantly to leave the land in proper condition for the next generation.”
Rob Coleman farms with his father Billy near the village of Castlemagner in North Cork. They manage a mixed tillage and stock farm, with tillage being the main commercial aspect of the farming system. Rob and Billy run a calf-to-beef system and a flock of 150 breeding ewes. Much of the grassland is extensively managed and Rob is incorporating clovers and multi-species swards into the pasture. A wide range of crops are grown on the farm for the animal feed market. The tillage has been managed via min-till for some 20 years, and the past 5 years they have incorporated the principles of conservation agriculture and adopted some no-till operations. Nitrogen fixing and pollinator friendly cover crops are included in the crop rotation and farmyard manure is composted on-farm and spread on the land to increase the organic matter content of the soil and regenerate the soil biology. The sheep are incorporated into the cereal cropping rotation. These conservation practices increase soil biological activity, improve structure, reduce water run-off and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
The use of cover crops on the land has greatly increased the population of birds and insects on the land, particularly yellowhammers, buzzards and pheasants. There are pockets of woodland around the farm and an area of wetland and a pond which was been fenced off and left for biodiversity and wildlife. Wildflowers have been planted in field corners and margins. Rob is passionate about finding ways to incorporate biodiversity into his productive farming system – “Finding the balance between production, finance and the environment has been a central part to the development of our farm.”
Timothy Curran and his family run a mixed grazing enterprise on the banks of Derriana Lake. Derriana Lake drains west into the Commeragh River which is an important river for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. The farmland is made up of a wide variety of habitats ranging from wet grasslands and improved grasslands, traditional hay meadows, wet and dry heaths, blanket bogs, mature native woodlands and old stone walls. The farm currently consists of 100 breeding ewes and 10 suckler cows. The majority of the farmland slopes down towards the lake. The slope and wet nature of this land can sometimes make it tricky to manage livestock without comprising water quality. I am nominating Timothy Curran to the Farming for Nature Awards because he has been very proactive and innovative in tackling some water quality issues that were noted on his farm when he joined the Pearl Mussel Project in 2019. He has installed numerous crossing points on drains and streams, fenced off other watercourses, installed peat plugs and leaky dams. All these actions have greatly improved water quality on the farm as well as having a positive impact on the quality of the terrestrial habitats. Year on year since the Pearl Mussel Project commenced Timothy has added new supporting actions improving water quality and biodiversity further on his farm. He has also hosted farmer training events. These events have influenced other neighbouring farmers into taking positive nature friendly actions on their farms. As Timothy has the skills and machinery to carry out the tasks listed above he has helped out his neighbours directly when they are installing their supporting actions also.
Read more about Timothy Curran
Christine Kelly-O’Brien is an organic farmer based in Tulla Co Clare. She farms 40 ha of bog, wet grassland and scrub/woodland. The farm is in the Slieve Aughty Hen Harrier SPA and partially in the Oystermans Marsh NHA. Christine has been farming the land since 2006 and she has been gradually restoring the land in a manner that protects the habitats and species on the farm. Scrub encroachment has been a challenge on parts of the land, and Christine has used rescue donkeys to help manage the gorse. The donkeys are naturally managing gorse through ring barking the mature gorse plants and trampling the younger plants. Christine runs a small herd of Angus cattle. The cattle overwinter outdoors and external inputs are very low in this farming system. She also grows vegetables on the farm, for the home and a few neighbours. She has set up a night roost on the farm for bats and she also keeps a few hives of bees.
Christine takes great pride in the high nature value of her land and the important habitat it provides for wildlife, especially the Hen Harrier. The blanket bog contains a wide range of wildflowers. “I’m proud to protect and act as a caretaker of this land. We want to pass on the land to our children in as good or better condition in which we found it.”
Read more about Christina Kelly-O’Brien
Kevin Wallace (New Leaf Urban CSA)
Kevin Wallace set up New Leaf Urban Farmers in 2016. With no prior farming experience, he took on the challenge of starting from scratch with a 1-acre site and began developing a market garden. Highly influenced by the Lean Principles, Kevin is very interested in efficient space utilisation and minimising/eliminating waste generation. The market garden is now 1.5 acres and based in Ballyneety County Limerick. Kevin grows a range of vegetables including salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, leeks and so on. His supply focus is primarily on the hospitality sector, and he also runs a small veg box scheme. The aim for the farm is to be totally self-sufficient and independent, and Kevin has worked tirelessly over the past 6 years to regenerate the soil and restore balance within the soil microbiology. His farming story to date has been one of observing, deep learning, experimenting, studying, trialling and analysing. Given Kevin’s inquisitive and curious nature, he enjoys the challenge and is a big believer in learning from his mistakes.
More recently, Kevin has been implementing Korean Natural Farming (KNF) methods on the land and has observed significant improvements on the farm since. Kevin believes that a richly diverse microbial ecosystem underpins plant health and soil vitality. This is achieved by culturing a diverse range of indigenous soil microbes and adding them to the soil. Various probiotic and prebiotic solutions are made from locally sourced and natural materials such as nettle, comfrey, seaweed and seawater, and are used to fertilise the soil which results in healthy, nutrient dense vegetable produce. Kevin believes that the overall quality of his produce has increased since he has adopted KNF, and he takes pride in his holistic and balanced farming system.
Read more about Kevin Wallace (New Leaf Urban CSA)
Mary and Liam McDonagh
Mary and Liam McDonagh permanently returned home from London 4 years ago and they now manage a 70-acre farm in County Leitrim. The land is mixed, with some very heavy grassland some high nature value land. Much of the land is diverse permanent pasture, with a range grass and plant species present. There are pockets of woodland throughout the farm and some of the old hedgerows are between 20-30 foot wide. They run a small herd of horned Kerry cattle at a very low stocking density to minimise poaching and impact on the soil. The animals are outwintered and supplemented with silage cut from the land. No chemicals are used on the farm and the farm is very extensively managed with biodiversity and wildlife central to the decisions Mary and Liam take on the farm.
They have been planting trees and hedgerows on the land for years and they have installed 2 ponds on the land so far, with a view to digging out more ponds in the future as they attract such a tremendous number of creatures to the land – “the pond has attracted 100s of dragonflies.” Some areas of woodland on the farm contain the wood anemone flower, which is regarded as an ancient woodland indicator plant. Part of the meadow is a crucial habitat for the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly. The rushes are managed with wildlife in mind – “The rushes are important habitats for ground nesting birds like the pheasant.”
Read more about Mary and Liam McDonagh
Harriet Roach & David Andrews
Harriet Roach and David Andrews farm 7 hectares on Bere Island in West Cork. They are certified organic, run a small herd of Dexter cattle and have a one-acre market garden. The farm is a mixture of improved grassland, semi-improved grassland and dry heath. The Dexters are well suited to the rocky uplands given their hardy nature and lighter frame. The cattle play a crucial role in maintaining the diverse pasture. External inputs are very low on the extensively managed farm. The cattle overwinter outdoors and some hay is cut off the better land to supplement the animals during the winter months. Farmyard manure is composted to produce a supply of organic matter for the vegetable beds. The organic vegetable produce is sold at the local farmers market during the summer months, which Harriet helped to set up in 2021.
The farm is partly within the Beara Peninsula Special Protection Area (SPA) which is designated primarily because of its international importance for Chough. The farm is in the NPWS farm scheme, where Harriet and David are taking numerous actions to protect biodiversity on the land and to support the Chough and the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly. Harriet and David are proud of the high nature value of the land they farm and its importance in terms of wildlife and biodiversity.
Eleanor and Richard Murphy
Richard and Eleanor Murphy are lifelong farmers from Glenmore County Kilkenny. Their family farm – Robins Glen Organic Farm – is a 74ha mixed organic farm. The main commercial enterprise are crops such as oats, barley, seed crops, beans, peas, sunflowers and more – these are used to produce a range of organic livestock meal, poultry feed and wild bird feed. They keep a small suckler herd on the farm and grow a small number of organic potatoes as well. The farm has been certified organic for 10 years now, and Richard and Eleanor have seen a dramatic improvement in the soil biology and general health of the land since. Fertility building cover crops are sown every year, ensuring the soil is never bare or exposed, and providing food for insects and birds. They run a combi-cropping system, they inoculate their seeds themselves, they make and use compost teas on the land and they under sow the spring crops with chicory and clover.
Soil health is essential to every decision made on the farm – “The key to unlocking the potential of the land is through management of the soil biology.” Richard and Eleanor are of the belief that once you have healthy soil biodiversity, you will have healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy humans. They are participants in Talamh Beo’s Soil Biodiversity EIP – a learning-based project that is exploring how soil biology can be improved on Irish farms. Lots of wildlife is returning to the land, from hedgehogs to buzzards to owls, and the family are proud to run a productive farm that works with nature rather than against it.
Soil health is essential to every decision made on the farm – “The key to unlocking the potential of the land is through management of the soil biology.” Richard and Eleanor are of the belief that once you have healthy soil biodiversity, you will have healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy humans. They are participants in Talamh Beo’s Soil Biodiversity EIP – a learning-based project that is exploring how soil biology can be improved on Irish farms. Lots of wildlife is returning to the land, from hedgehogs to buzzards to owls, and the family are proud to run a productive farm that works with nature rather than against it.
Ballyglisheen Commonage Community Group
The members of the Ballyglisheen Commonage Community Group (CCG) have been exemplary in their efforts to improve the ecological condition of their land. Since 2019, the commonage rights holders have come together to form a group dedicated to improving their upland heath commonage in the Blackstairs Mountains. This group not only works together to manage grazing and agricultural operations but has also carried out extensive restoration works such as stone wall repair and bracken control, all by hand. Their group has set an example of the benefits of cooperation for commonage holders throughout the country. In the three years they have been involved in the Blackstairs Farming Futures project, they have raised their score from a 6/10 to an 8/10, whilst improving the available grazing for their livestock. Ballyglisheen is primarily dry heath, with patches of wet heath on the southern extent. The heath is in good condition, with all stages of heather growth present throughout the site and is lightly grazed by sheep. The eastern edge forms the ridge of the southern extent of the Blackstairs Mountains and is mostly exposed rock and scree. Previous fires have led to the expansion of dense bracken through the site and had exacerbated the erosion of soils near the exposed rock. In 2019, the commonage holders agreed to a moratorium on fire management and have since established a firewatch for their area. This site has been nominated as a location to carry out small-scale controlled burn training for local farmers to reduce the threat of uncontrolled burns in this area. Their interest in conservation goes beyond biodiversity. The CCG have been keen to share their knowledge on the history and archaeology on Ballyglisheen. The site contains a variety of monuments and historical buildings, including the remains of an RIC barracks. The Ballyglisheen CCG have recognised the importance of both natural and cultural heritage and their role in conserving it for future generations.
Read more about Ballyglisheen Commonage Community Group
Declan Quinlan is a lifelong farmer from County Offaly. The 100-acre farm is split between 2 sites. 20 acres of the land is in the Rapemills SAC, and this land contains two esker ridges and has been classified as species-rich calcareous grassland containing a tremendous variety of unique plant species. “As a young boy, I noticed all of the unique flowers growing on the land but it wasn’t until I got older and started to do some research that I really realised the value and importance of these flowers.” The land is of mixed quality with some better grassland and some HNV land, but the farm never lent itself to intensive production and Declan always respected this. Over 20 years ago Declan was a dairy farmer, he then farmed a small number of deer, then he planted 40 acres with mixed broadleaf forestry, he bred and brought on sport horses and now he keeps a small number of horses on the land as well as boarding kennels. Haylage is cut off the better grassland for the horses. The farm is very extensively managed and Declan takes deep consideration of the unique habitats and wildlife on the land with every decision he makes regarding the farm. A neighbours sheep graze the esker in a very targeted and selective grazing regime. Scrub encroachment became an issue at the site 10-15 years ago. Declan realised that this was resulting in a loss of species-rich grassland and took it upon himself to painstakingly manually remove blackthorn and gorse over a number of years.
Declan has facilitated numerous research groups on the land over the years led by Dr John Feehan. He is now part of the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme where he continues to manage his land for biodiversity.
Read more about Declan Quinlan
Sean Condon is an organic dairy farmer from Crecora County Limerick. He farms about 140 acres of good grassland and runs an extensive dairy farming system, milking 50 cows once a day. External inputs on the farm are extremely low and Sean takes pride in managing a low-input, low intensity productive farm. Some of the milk produced is sold under Sean’s own brand of organic raw milk – Templeroe milk. The remainder is sold to the Little Milk Company. Sean is passionate about maintaining traditional farming systems whereby production and nature work in harmony – “For me, farming for nature may be more about what I’m not doing rather than what I am doing”. Permanent pasture, mature hedgerows, pockets of woodland and a pond all provide important habitats for the healthy population of birds and other wildlife on the land. Some years ago, a reed-bed system was installed to clean run-off water from the farmyard. Sean leaves wild plants grow around the farm and recognises their importance in farmland ecosystems – “if you don’t have some weeds on the land then you don’t have insects, and without insects there is not much food source for young birds”.
Brigid O Connor
Brigid O’Connor is a lifelong farmer from Camp County Kerry where she runs an organic sheep farming system. Brigid breeds 120 scotch ewes on 54 hectares. The farm is made up of 3 different land types – permanent pasture, heath and commonage. The farm is very extensively managed with minimal external inputs. The family have farmed the land for generations and Brigid is proud to carry on traditional methods of farming handed down to her from her parents and grandparents – “Growing up on a farm, you learn from your parents and your grandparents. I remember my grandfather teaching me things about sheep and it is knowledge that I still use today”. Brigid acknowledges and respects the high nature value of the land she farms, and its importance from a wildlife and biodiversity perspective. The land has never been reseeded and is managed is the most natural and low-impact manner possible. The bog contains a wonderful array of wildflowers including the rare Kerry Violet. There is a healthy population of pheasant nesting on the farm and the Hen Harrier is frequently seen overhead. Brigid diversified by the farm by running farm tours where she explains the history of the land and the importance of the farmland habitats. She was also recently involved the launch of the book “The beauty of the bogs of Kerry”. Brigid has a deep love for the land she cares for and sees herself as a custodian of the land.
James Gilmartin is a 7th generation farmer, who farms alongside his father in North County Leitrim. James takes a wonderfully holistic approach to his farm, recognising and valuing its importance from an environmental, a productivity and a social/cultural point of view. James runs a mixed organic farm. He keeps a suckler herd and a small herd of Dexters, as well as a small flock of sheep. Part of the farm is commonage and a very important HNV habitat for various flora and fauna species, including the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly. Much of the grassland is species-rich permanent pasture. James recognises the nature value of his farm and manages the land with this in mind – “As a farmer, the natural world is your office!” He doesn’t want to push the land beyond its natural capability, thus low stocking density, low external inputs and extensive management of the land are crucial elements of his farming system. With a keen interest in regenerative agriculture, James has been trialling holistic planned grazing on the farm for the past year. Through the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme, James is just one of three farmers currently trialling NoFence cattle collars to deliver targeted grazing in an upland setting. He has installed PV panels on the shed roof. There is a small pond on the farm and James enjoys planting trees and hedges on the farm every year. He keeps a small number of bees on the farm as well.
James is an ag. science teacher and a firm believer in the power of education and knowledge sharing. He is heavily involved in local community/farming groups, including a new Leitrim Sustainable Agriculture Group (LSAG), the IFA and Teagasc. James was also a spokesperson for the Treasure Leitrim group, established to counteract the threat of Gold mining in the area.
Mark Harold Barry
Mark Harold-Barry runs a mixed organic farm outside Tipperary Town. The 170-acre farm has been certified organic for almost 20 years. Mark grows organic oats for Flahavans and for winter feeding for his stock, he also grows seed oats for Gold Crop. There is about 90 acres of grassland on the farm, which is a mixture of permanent pasture and multispecies swards. Mark keeps a suckler herd of about 25 Aberdeen Angus/Hereford cattle and all of the animals are finished on the farm. He also keeps about 20 hives of honeybees, and the honey is sold locally in Tipperary. The family manage a kitchen garden on the farm and are relatively self-sufficient during the summer months. The farm is extensively managed and external inputs are minimal. There is about 40acres of woodland on the farm – a mix of hardwood and softwood trees, some very mature and some much younger. Mark follows in this father’s footsteps and continuously plants trees on the land – “My father is a great man and he has a policy of planting about half an acre of trees on the farm every year since he came here.” The woodland provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife. There is a river running through the farm and a pond on the land which attract birds such as the kingfisher, ducks and snipe. Ditches, hedgerows and field margins provide thick nature corridors throughout the land. Mark is proud to run a productive farm, all the while leaving plenty of space for wildlife and biodiversity to thrive.
Dinny Galvin is a lifelong farmer from Lispole in County Kerry. He runs a conventional dairy herd, milking about 60 cows. He also keeps a flock of 150 West Kerry Mountain sheep – “The sheep to me are like friends, they each have their own character and identity”. The land is mixed, ranging from commonage to improved peatland to permanent pasture. The hardy sheep are outdoors for most of year, helping to manage the diverse pasture on the commonage. The stocking density is kept on the lower side to avoid stress on the land. Dinny is putting aside 1.5 acres of land as a pollinator friendly area this year where he will plant native wildflowers – “We need to act quickly if we are to protect our insect species in the country”. The hedgerows are regarded as important habitat on the land and there are areas of scrub around the farm that are left for wildlife. In an attempt to reduce the amount of artificial nitrogen spread on the land, Dinny has re-seeded some of the grassland with clover and multispecies leys.
Dinny is heavily involved in the local community. He is Chairperson of the West Kerry Dairy Farmers Sustainable Energy Community and chairperson of the West Kerry Mountain Sheep Breeders group. He is a Farming Ambassador for PLUTOS project in conjunction with Dingle Hub. And he is an Ambassador for the Dingle ESB project involving the implementation of new technologies to help develop a low carbon network. He has taken numerous actions to improve the energy efficiency of his milking parlour and is dedicating a lot of time to helping other dairy farmers to do the same thing.
Padraig and Una Fahy
Padraig and Una Fahy of Beechlawn Organic Farm have been 20 years in operation and run a successful organic horticulture farm near Ballinasloe County Galway. The farm is about 45 acres in total and the land ranges from good free draining land to some heavier land. They grow over 20 varieties of vegetables, from brassicas to salads, from leeks to tomatoes. They run a 4-year vegetable and cover crop rotation. As this is a stockless farm, fertility is bought in in the form of organic chicken manure pellets. Cover crops also play an important role in building soil fertility. They produce vegetables year-round and employ between 20-25 local people on the farm.
Padraig and Una have been strong advocates for organic, fresh and local food for many years. They are heavily involved in the organic community and believe strongly in the power of education. They take horticulture interns every year and run a variety of school tours on the farm. They work hard to create as much space for wildlife and biodiversity as possible on the farm – “There is about 1 hectare of land on the farm that is left purely for biodiversity and habitat.” They have planted trees and hedges around the farm for years. They leave approx. 5m margin around the cultivated fields, allowing space for wildflowers and vegetation to grow. There are mature hedgerows and groves on the land, and Padraig and Una value these areas as important habitat for the birds and insects on the farm. Their produce is sold direct and in stores countrywide.
He has planted a grove of about 1,000 native trees, mainly oak, birch and alder (picture attached). There a also fine mature specimens of native oaks and also some lime trees on the farm. He has planted some new hedges with mainly whitethorn and holly. He has used native trees on the farm to create shelter belts and to enhance the wildlife value of the farm. He speaks favourable about the semi-natural grasslands on the farm and there value for pollinators, insects and birds. He is pleased to notice birds of prey especially around the area where the ringfort is.Read more about Shane Taaffe
Maurice Deasy farms in partnership with his father Ruaidhri in northwest Tipperary. The 120-acre mixed farm is a sheep and tillage operation. Crops grown include winter barley and oats, spring barley, malting barley and beans. In recent years these farmers have been implementing the principles of conservation agriculture on their land – direct drilling, crop rotation and cover cropping. This work is being done to regenerate and protect the soil biology. Maurice has been growing heritage Irish grains to preserve their genetic diversity and maintain their heritage. While these grains are lower yielding, their larger root systems provide crucial disease and drought resistance. “The heritage grains give a better flavour to the finished beer product. I have found they also have higher disease resistance.” The heritage grains are processed and malted on-site and made into a single-source farmhouse beer. Maurice is also experimenting with biological seed coatings made from biochar and seaweed to reduce inputs and adopt more natural farming processes. There are 80 breeding ewes on the farm. Some of the grassland is permanent pasture and Maurice is reseeding some of the pasture with multispecies swards.
There is approximately 20 acres of mixed woodland on the farm which attracts lots of birds to the land. Hedgerows are managed for biodiversity and act as nature corridors running throughout the land. There is an area of wet/boggy land which has been fenced off and left for biodiversity. A river runs through the farm and there is a pond on the land. On the farm there are deer, woodcock, snipe, pheasant, kingfisher and otter.
Reuben Cope manages his family farm at Shankill Castle in County Kilkenny. Himself and his wife Ellen run an on-farm café called the Coach House Café. Since taking over the farm, Rueben has been trialling different farming methods that enable him to run a productive farm all the while protecting and enhancing biodiversity on the land. He converted the farm to organic in 2019. The home farm is good land and mature, permanent grassland. Rueben runs a herd of 40 sucklers, producing organic beef that is supplied to their café. Part of the farm is in county Kildare, where Rueben grows about 47 acres of organic oats and 20 acres of heritage wheat, both of which are supplied to The Little Mill in Kilkenny, and subsequently made into bread which is also sold in the café. There is a market garden and all of the vegetable produce is supplied to the café.
Reuben is always looking for ways to conserve nature on the land. He uses green manures and winter cover crops to build soil biology and provide a food source for insects and birds. There is a pond and a stream on the land, as well as about 15 acres of mature woodland, all of which provide a fantastic habitat for wildlife. Hedgerows are managed for biodiversity. Rueben has put up bird and bat boxes around the land and he also sows wild bird cover strips. “Lots of bird species are returning to the land. I’ve seen the woodpecker on the farm in recent years, which is the first time in my living memory”. They incorporate pollinator friendly flowers into the vegetable beds throughout the growing season.
David Kerr is a commercial dairy farmer from Ballyfin Co Laois. The 70-ha farm is comprised of mixed land ranging from good grassland to wet heavy land to cutaway bog. David milks 150 cross-bred cows, “following the old farming mantra of one cow to the acre”. He also keeps a small flock of Dorset Horn sheep on the farm. 20% of the land has been reseeded with multispecies swards and clover and this has helped reduce the amount of artificial nitrogen spread on the land. David is an advocate of efficient grassland management, and he hosted a very successful Irish Grassland Association summer tour on his farm in 2014.
There is 3 acres of woodland on the farm, mainly oak, which was planted by Davids late father George. To honour the passing of George last year, David devoted an area of land to a wildlife pond. The 1.5-acre pond was dug and different tree species were planted around the pond. Although the pond is not yet one year old, it has already attracted numerous bird and insect species to the land and has become a central part of the farm. David has left approximately 12% of his farm as non-commercially productive land and he values this land for its biodiversity and wildlife value. “If you farm in a technically efficient manner, you can afford to leave some land aside and dedicated for nature.”
David is a strong example of a farmer who runs a commercial and productive farming enterprise, all the while leaving space aside for nature, biodiversity and wildlife on his land.
Michael Seymour is a 4th generation farmer from Borrisokane Co Tipperary. He runs a mixed organic farm, keeping a small suckler herd of Angus cattle and about 95 Texel ewes. Some of the organic meat produced on the farm is sold direct to a loyal customer base. The 50ha farm is comprised of some better grassland, some poorer grassland and callow. The farm was never intensively managed, with no chemicals used on the land and the grassland was never reseeded, and so it remains today a diverse permanent pasture. The river Ballyfinboy runs through a large portion of the land and often floods some of the grassland in the winter months. This callow habitat is teaming with biodiversity and contains a variety of wildflowers and insect life. The farm is extensively managed, and Michael takes great pride in managing a farm that is productive and biodiverse – “I’m farming in harmony with nature, meaning I don’t push the land. I know how much grass and silage my land can produce naturally, and I produce my stock according to that”. The animals overwinter indoors and silage is cut off the better land to provide winter feeding. The mature hedgerows contain a large variety of species such as crab-apple, hazel, hawthorn, willow, ash, blackthorn, elder, honeysuckle, dogrose, spindle and guelder rose. There are riparian zones along the river, protecting the watercourse and creating habitat for wildlife. Michael is a believer of working with the land and learning from the land “I remember once letting cows out into a lovely green field and the first thing they did was go over to the ditch and start eating the nettles. It told me that there is something important there in the hedges that we may not know about, but the animals do.”Read more about Michael Seymour
Anthony Leneghan recently took over his family farm near Castlebar County Mayo. The farm is fragmented and a total of 13 hectares, some of which is situated directly on the seafront. Anthony runs a small flock of about 30 horned sheep, producing ewe lambs for breeding. The soil is dry and sandy, meaning the sheep overwinter outdoors as they do not damage the land. The farm is very extensively managed and external inputs are minimal. Much of the grassland is diverse pasture with an abundance of plants such as yellow rattle, legumes and composites. Anthony joined the Reap scheme in 2021 and achieved the highest score on the field assessment due to the abundance of plant and grass species in his meadows. Anthony has planted 1200 blackthorn and hawthorn trees to form a new hedgerow on the land. There is a healthy population of hares and rabbits on the farm. Anthony is proud to farm in a manner that protects the wildlife and biodiversity on the land. He runs a family butcher shop with his wife in Castlebar.Read more about Anthony Leneghan
Andrew Chilton manages 2 farms in Co Roscommon alongside his family. The first farm is 6 ha of marginal land and is certified organic. An advocate for diversity on farms, there is a mix of animals kept on this farm including a small herd of Dexters and at different times there are pigs, goats, sheep and chickens. They grow vegetables for the home and there is an apple and plum orchard on the farm as well. Andrew has trialled different methods of agroforestry on this land including planting field corners and nature corridors, and block planting. He plants between 50-100 trees on the land every year. Andrew has dug 2 ponds on the land which has attracted many insects and birds to the land – “There is tremendous birdlife on the land, we have counted over 30 different bird species on the farm.”
The second farm borders Lough Key and is surrounded by woodland. A herd of 52 alpacas are kept on this farm and Andrew produces alpaca fleece which is processed in the UK and the finished pillow and duvet products are sold directly from the farm. They also run farm tours and alpaca trekking. All of the animals are on a rotational grazing system and overwinter outdoors. Andrew has been increasing the diversity of grass species in the pasture in recent years. There is also an apiary on the farm and honey is sold commercially.
Andrew works with Social Farming Ireland and teaches the NOTS Organic Production Principles Course. He is also a farm advisor/planner.
Tom Tierney runs a 200-acre regenerative farm in county Kildare. The primary aspect of the farm is tillage production, operating under the principles of conservation agriculture – cover cropping, increasing soil organic matter, crop rotations and direct drilling. Barley, oats, wheat, beans and oilseed rape are grown on the land. Animal manure is brought in from neighbouring farms and composted on site before being spread on the land. White clover is grown as a companion crop and in field margins. Tom has been running a direct drilling system since 2015 and has observed tremendous benefits of this lower soil disturbance method for life both above and below the soil surface – “Biodiversity starts beneath our feet. The biological health of the soil plays a crucial role in increasing biodiversity.” Tom has reduced the amount of synthetic inputs required on the farm and there has been no insecticide used on the land in 6 years. Tom is continuously experimenting with different ways to produce crops in a more natural way. He has two wormery’s on the farm and he makes his own bio-stimulants from vermi-juice, seaweed, molasses and silica which further build the soil biology.
There is about 30 acres of mixed forestry on the farm, 60% hardwood and 40% softwood and Tom operates a continuous cover forestry system. There are about 12 acres of conservation areas on the farm. There is an acre of wetland with naturally regenerating woodland. There are 7 acres of wildflowers on the farm and 4 acres of permanent clover. Tom is a member of BASE Ireland, he is a Teagasc Signpost Tillage Farmer and a participant in the Protecting Farmland Pollinators EIP Project.
Conor and Sorcha McPhillips
Conor and Sorcha McPhillips have recently taken over the family farm in County Monaghan. They have been slowly and carefully rebuilding the farm, all the time ensuring that they do so in a manner that is considerate of nature, biodiversity and wildlife on the land. They decided to introduce a small herd of Dexter cattle to manage the permanent pasture. The Dexter’s are outdoors year-round. Beef is sold direct to local customers via a meat box scheme. Hay is cut from the grassland in July every year, ensuring time for ground nesting birds to rear their young and providing an important source of food for insects and birds during the summer months. No chemicals are used on the land and minimal externals inputs are necessary for this extensive farming system. Conor and Sorcha have left the thick and mature hedgerows around the land, only cutting back small sections where necessary to install adequate fencing. A wildlife pond has been dug on the land which has attracted many birds and insects to the farm. The couple have sown wild bird cover around the pond area. There is a small stream on the land which attracts ducks and they have planted a riparian zone along the watercourse.
Conor and Sorcha plan to increase their stock over the next few years and potentially diversify the farm by adding sheep and pigs to their farming system.
Ragna Gruendler, along with her partner Baptiste Zorin, run Cloontabonnive Farm in West Clare. The 28-acre farm was in poor condition when they took over back in 2012. They have since put tremendous effort into restoring the land and creating/protecting habitats on the farm. A nature lover at heart and an agroforester by trade, Ragna has spent many years planting trees all over the farm to improve the soil structure and increase the fertility of the land. In 2013, 5 acres was planted under the native woodland scheme with a variety of trees including alder, birch, oak, hazel, whitethorn, blackthorn, willow and rowan. Ragna has continued to plant many more trees to create a network of hedgerows, woodland areas and nature corridors throughout the farm. Flowering and fruiting trees such as apple, wild cheery and plus have been incorporated into the agroforestry system as well.
A believer in the importance of diversity on farms, Ragna currently keeps a small herd of Aubrac Galloway x Wagyu cattle, a few sheep and a variety of poultry. Most of the animal produce is for the house. As different animals have different grazing patterns, the variety of animals play an important role in managing the grassland and grazing the agroforestry. Given the wet and heavy soil, the stocking density is very low and the animals overwinter indoors to avoid poaching the land. Ragna is also one of the directors of Inagh River EIP, a farmer-led biodiversity enhancement project in a farm, forestry and raised bog area to address habitat fragmentation and enhance biodiversity and water quality.
Colm Flynn is a 4th generation lifelong farmer from Athy county Kildare. The land has been intensively farmed for cereal production for many years. About 7 ago, having experienced and understood the impacts of intensive tillage on the soil health, Colm decided it was time to re-evaluate his farming practices. He is actively involved in the Danú farming project and has spent the past number of years working to rehabilitate soil using biological solutions – “learning how to rehabilitate a commercial farm in a commercial context and find alternatives to chemical applications.” Part of his involvement in the project included reintroducing grasses and multispecies swards to the farm – allowing the land to rest, building organic matter and regenerating the soil biology. The farm is currently 50% cereal production, producing spring peas, winter barley, oats and wheat. The remaining 50% is under grassland and used for silage production and cattle grazing.
Colm has always been interested in nature and wildlife. Areas of mature woodland on the farm serve as habitats for hares, foxes and badgers. He has planted an orchard on the farm, most of which is left as food for birds and insects. There are numerous species of birds on the land including finches, mistle thrush, jackdaws, long-eared owls and barn owls. Colm continues to work hard to create a farm that is productive, economically viable and ecologically biodiverse – “I recorded 33 species of birds come through the farm this winter. I did an audit of the plants that grow on the farm and 84 plant species were recorded – from the tiniest little flowering plant to rushes to wild orchids. I hope in a few years time that the number of plant species on the farm will have increased.”
Mary Walsh and her partner Ophelia run Little Black Hill Farm, a small mixed farm outside Killarney in County Kerry. They manage a 1.5-acre market garden, growing a wide range of chemical-free vegetables which are sold to local restaurants, shops and through a vegetable box scheme. Mary has 8 growing seasons under her belt and she has been making changes to the farming system year-on-year to ensure her farm operates in the most ecologically and economically sustainable way. Last year the outdoor beds were converted to a no-dig system in an effort to protect soil biology, minimise weeding and thus grow stronger crops. Mary keeps a few chickens and pigs on the land producing food for the home. She recently added 4 Belted Galloways to the farm, and the cattle will play an important role in managing rush and dock encroachment on areas of the grassland.
Mary is passionate about community and educating people on how their food has been produced – “As much as I love growing food, I also want to grow community, understanding and connection. I want to help people reconnect with their food and realise how dependant we are on nature.” One full-time intern is employed on the farm and many volunteers, neighbours and friends have lent their hands to helping with various projects on Little Black Hill Farm over the years. Pockets of woodland, hedgerows and a pond all provide important habitats for the healthy bird and insect populations on the farm. Mary understands that her farm and her livelihood are completely dependent on nature, and she takes great pride in producing nutrient-dense, seasonal food for the local community, all the while leaving space for biodiversity and wildlife on the land.
Diana Pickersgill farms near Mullingar County Westmeath where she manages a mixed organic farm with the help of her children. Diana bought the land in 1993 and immediately converted to organic. She planted 40 acres with a diverse multispecies sward. 5.8ha of land was planted with mixed broadleaf woodland and another 2.4ha of mixed broadleaf woodland was planted in 2018. The woodland is managed by a continuous cover system and Diana’s son looks after this aspect of the farm. An advocate for the importance of maintaining diversity on farms, Diana keeps a variety of stock on the land but maintains low stocking numbers. She buys in Dexter cattle and finishes them on the farm. She keeps a flock of about 31 breeding ewes, selling organic lamb to Irish Country Meats and direct to local customers. Two sows are kept on the land, along with donkeys and chickens. Silage or hay is cut every year. External inputs on the farm consist of small amounts of organic concentrates for some of the animals during the winter. Some oats are grown on the farm every year to help supplement winter feeding and to provide straw for winter bedding. The farm is quite self-sufficient, and the family grow vegetables for the house as well.
Diana takes pride in running a productive farm, all the while protecting and enhancing biodiversity on the land. Habitats include woodlands, hedgerows, wetland areas with 2 ponds, and orchard, meadows and wildflower areas. Subsequently there is plenty of wildlife on the farm including long eared owls, buzzards, pheasants, snipe, woodcock, hawks, red squirrel and lots of insects – “Last year we counted 35 different bird species before March.”
Read more about Diana Pickersgill
Blátnaid Gallagher and her husband Niall inherited the family farm in 2016. The land, which is located in Killoran Co. Galway, has been farmed extensively and traditionally for generations. Some of the land is rented and the remaining 17ha contains a mix of forestry, permanent pasture and areas of rewilded land. Blátnaid runs a small flock of pedigree Galway ewes, producing organic lamb and Galway wool. The farm is very extensively managed, with no chemicals used and external inputs are extremely low. The hardy sheep live outdoors year-round, and hay/silage is cut from the land every year to supplement winter feeding. Geese, ponies and donkeys are also kept on the farm, and they all play a role in managing the grassland and fertilising the soil.
11.8ha of the farm has now been dedicated to a NPWS scheme that aims to enhance biodiversity on Irish farms. This will involve managing the grassland to ensure it maintains its rich diversity of native plants, grasses and herbs. Areas of the farm have been rewilded to provide habitat for wildlife. 6ha of unused bogland has been dedicated to a butterfly sanctuary, providing a habitat for the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly as well as numerous other insects and birds. Mature hedgerows, woodland and nature corridors throughout the land provide habitat for the healthy populations of birds on the farm, as well as badgers, hares, pine marten and foxes.Read more about Blátnaid Gallagher
Shane McAuliffe is a 3rd generation farmer from county Kerry. There are 7 farms in total in Kerry and Offaly. The primary operation is a commercial pig farm, but Shane also breeds Aubrac, Salers and Charolais cattle and there is 100 acres of tillage. Between all 7 farms there is a wide range of land types and habitats ranging from improved grassland to wet grassland, from native woodland to high nature value bogland. No chemical fertilizer is used on the land and Shane has worked hard to reduce the level of soya feed fed to the pigs by 20%.
Part of the farm consists of 100 acres of native woodland. A big advocate for incorporating more native trees on Irish farms, Shane plants approximately 1000 native trees on his land every year. Hedgerows are managed for biodiversity. Shane recently reseeded 14 acres with a multispecies sward mix. Riparian margins have been installed along water courses on the land. 5 wildlife ponds have been dug on the land over the past few years and Shane has taken immense joy in watching a tremendous number of birds and insects return to these wetland habitats. Bat boxes have been installed on trees along the watercourses and numerous bird boxes have been erected around the farms. Two wild bird cover strips are sown in Hen Harrier SPA fields to provide for farmland birds and birds of prey over the Autumn and Winter months.
A believer in the importance of community and education, Shane is actively involved in two of his local Tidy Towns groups, as well as various farming and biodiversity groups.
Pat O Brien
Pat O’Brien is a tillage farmer based in Cahir County Tipperary. Pat used to manage a farm shop on-site where he supplied potatoes and apples, but he has stood back from farm shop and now runs a 110-acre tillage operation growing wheat, barley, beans and oilseed rape. Having noticed a decline in the health of his soil in more recent years, Pat decided to change his ways and now farms under the principles of conservation tillage, and although it is early days, Pat feels positive and hopeful about the change. Soil biology and health is at the forefront of the farming system now. Pat is building soil organic matter by spreading mushroom compost and slurry on the land. Cover crops have been incorporated into the cropping rotation which is helping to naturally regenerate the soil and add fertility, as well as providing food for pollinating insects and birds. Oilseed rape has been included into the crop rotation and the soil is no longer left bare at any point. Pat has been producing the crops via min-till system for 3 years now. All of these changes have helped Pat to reduce the amount of artificial fertiliser required on the farm. There are pockets of woodland around the land and Pat has noticed the return of significant bird and insect life to the farm in recent years. Pat is proud to manage a productive farm all the while protecting soil health and increasing biodiversity on the land – “My interest in nature comes from my mother, who instilled in me a great love and respect for nature and animals.”Read more about Pat O Brien
William O’Connor runs a suckler farm in Kanturk County Cork, alongside his wife Margaret and son Denis. A lifelong farmer, William believes in operating a sustainable farming system where protecting the environment goes hand in hand with his traditional farming methods. William manages a suckler herd of 40 continental cows and he farms 80 acres of mixed land.
William is an active participant in the Duhallow Farming for Blue Dot Catchments EIP. This project aims to protect, restore and enhance the high-status objective rivers and streams in the Allow river catchment. As part of his commitment to this project, William has implemented a number of sustainability and biodiversity measures on his farm. These include the implementation of silt traps and swales, as well as the installation of a pond on the land in order to prevent silt run-off into the river Allow. He has also planted a number of hedgerows in targeted nutrient flow pathways to act as a nutrient break.
The river which runs through William’s farm attracts lots of wildlife to the farm including otters, herons and ducks. William is a believer in peer-to-peer learning and has often hosted farm walks on his land, enabling fellow farmers to learn more about the actions he is taking to support nature on his farm.Read more about William O’Connor
Alan Wood is a lifelong farmer from Crossmolina County Mayo. Along with his wife Vivienne, Alan manages a mixed dairy and beef farm. The dairy aspect of the farm is conventional and extensively managed, with 50 milking cows on the farm. Alan also runs a suckler herd and a herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. The farm is located on the north-western shores of Lough Conn and within two protected sites including the River Moy Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Lough Conn and Lough Cullin Special Protection Area. The grassland is a mixture of permanent pasture and improved pasture, all of which is managed very extensively.
In the winter months, the wetland habitats are full of wildlife such as otter, ducks, teal, lapwings and curlew. The wet grassland by the lake is home to a flock of Greenland-white fronted geese which migrate from their breeding grounds in Greenland to Alan’s farm every year. Flocks of whooper swans from Iceland also use these fields to feed over the winter months. Alan and his family take great pride in seeing the return of these wildfowl to the land every year, and they are proud to manage the farm in a way that protects biodiversity and wildlife on the land. Alan maintains traditional ways of farming where possible and the family share their unique farming story by hosting a farm tour with the local school every year.
|JJack Lynch is a lifelong farmer from Ballymakeera County Cork. He manages a 50ha hill farm where he runs a flock of 170 breeding ewes, 20 replacements and 5 rams. Most of his land is located in the Mullaghanish to Musheramore SPA, a designated Hen Harrier area, and Jack has been a participant in the Hen Harrier Project since 2018. The farm is very extensively managed with very few external inputs. The small area of lowland is used for silage production which supplements winter feeding as the sheep overwinter outdoors.
The mountain land consists of a variety of wet grasslands and bog/heath habitats. There is plenty of wildlife on the upland habitats including the Hen Harrier which is often seen hunting on the farm. Jack grows a crop of wild bird cover every year which helps birds and pollinating insects. Jack takes great pride in the high nature value of his land and is a wonderful example of a farmer who is working in harmony with the natural landscape of his farm.
Jessfield farm is a 500-acre farm located on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border. The farm has been in the family for 250 years. Martin Fitzgerald took over the farm from his father and has since modified the farming system in ways that hugely reduce the impact of farming activities on the land. Martin now runs a herd of 85 continental store bullocks. The cattle are overwintered outdoors and fed silage that has been cut off the land. External and chemical inputs are kept to a minimum and the farm is very extensively managed.
The permanent pasture contains a wide variety of plant species including wild orchids. There is an array of mature trees and hedgerows, all of which provide habitat for insects and birds. There are red squirrel, pine martin, buzzards, cuckoos and woodpeckers on the land. The old stone walls on the land also provide a habitat for many insects.
Martin’s farm is a wonderful example of an extensive, low-input farm that allows tremendous space for nature and wildlife on the land the flourish.Read more about Martin Fitzgerald
Charles Carr and Shannon Copeland
Charles and Shannon Copeland are regenerative farmers who have spent the past 5 years building their farm the ‘Bullaun Ark’. The land which had been conventionally farmed for years, is gradually recovering and regenerating under the watchful eye of Shannon and Charles.
True to its name, the farm hosts a range of animals from turkeys, ducks, chickens and geese to sheep, goats, pigs and a donkey. The animals are incorporated into the vegetable growing rotation where they play an important role in fertilizing the land and consuming pests like snails and slugs. The commercial section of the farm is a 1.25-acre market garden, where Shannon and Charles are currently growing over 150 different plants ranging from vegetables to exotic berries to edible flowers. They focus on perennial crops as much as possible. All the produce is sold directly to Galway-based restaurants. No chemicals are used on the land and external inputs on the farm consist only of mushroom compost and occasional liquid seaweed fertilizer.
Since they arrived on the land, Shannon and Charles have witnessed a significant return of birds and insects to the farm. They have dug ponds to create water habitats. They have planted wildflowers and trees to create shelter and habitat for wildlife. The couple have put huge effort into regenerating the soil biology. They also keep native Irish bees on the land. This farm is a wonderful example of championing diversification over specialisation.Read more about Charles Carr and Shannon Copeland
Mariann runs a stud farm in Swordlestown Little County Kildare. She bought the land with her husband in 1998 and they have built a successful stud farm where they breed thoroughbred horses. There are between 10-12 breeding mares on the land along with their followers, meaning the farm is run at a low stocking density of approximately 20-30 horses at any given time. The farming system is extensive, and no chemicals are used on the land. Hay or silage is cut off the multispecies grassland and used for winter feeding. A neighbours cattle graze the pasture during the summer months and sheep graze the pasture during the winter. Mariann ensures the stocking density is never too high and the land is aerated every year to minimise soil compaction.
A nature lover her entire life, Mariann places biodiversity and wildlife at the centre of every decision relating to the land. Thick and mature hedgerows line every field and corridor on the farm. A pond was dug on the land a few years ago and it has become a central point on the farm, attracting an abundance of insects and birds. There is steam on the land which provides further water habitat and there is an area of wetland on the farm as well. Thanks to all of their hard work in creating and protecting farmland habitats on the land, there are significant numbers of different bird species, as well as badgers, foxes, deer and pine marten. Mariann is continuously looking for ways to enhance biodiversity and habitats on her farm, future plans include another pond, more tree planting and a riparian zone.
Read more about Mariann Klay
Liam Kildea is a lifelong farm from County Roscommon. The family farm is approximately 100 acres, most of which is High Nature Value land. The farm is situated on the unique karst landscape of south Roscommon. Karst is an area of land made up of limestone, similar to the Burren landscape. There are many unique plant species growing on the land – “Our farm is a primary site in the whole country for the wild orchid”. The farm is very extensively managed and very few external inputs are used. Liam keeps a small herd of cattle to graze the natural and biodiverse grassland. The cattle spend the winter outdoors grazing the winterage. Hay or silage is cut off the better land to supplement winter feeding. A 3rd generation farmer on the land, Liam has made a big effort to maintain traditional methods of working the land – “the older generations were much wiser, and they had a greater understanding for nature”.
Liam is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the unique landscape and geology of his farm. He is actively working to increase awareness of the historical, environmental and cultural value of this type of land.
Cathal MacMahon farms in association with his father near Miltown Malbay in County Clare. The hill farm is approx 55 acres and would be marginal land and blanket bog. About 10ha of the land is in the Hen Harrier SPA. There are 11 horses, 3 of which are breeding mares, 8 sucklers and a bull kept on the farm. The cattle are block grazed and they help to manage the upland vegetation and minimise scrub encroachment. The farm is very extensively managed and external inputs are minimal. Cathal’s ancestors have farmed the land for generations, and he is proud of his farming heritage and maintaining traditional ways of managing the land. Heritage features on the farm include a famine road and wall. There is great biodiversity on the land and the farm is an important habitat for the Hen Harrier and the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly. There are many wildflowers growing on the bogland. Other wildlife includes kestrels, buzzards, badgers and frogs. In recent years, Cathal has planted hedgerows around the farm and groves of native woodland as part of his participation in the Illuan Farm-Forest Alliance EIP – “We have been planting hedgerows around the farm for the past few years to create natural boundaries and shelter belts on the land.”
Cathal is an ag science teacher and he is heavily involved in local community projects and initiatives.
Cathal is an ag science teacher and he is heavily involved in local community projects and initiatives.
Aonghus Johnny Choil Mhaidhc Ó Coistealbha
Aonghus Ó Coistealbha is a market gardener from Connemara Co. Galway. An Garraí Glas is a 1-acre farm where Aonghus grows a variety of chemical-free vegetables including lettuce/salad leaves, onions, tomatoes, radishes, herbs and more. A tremendous amount of vegetables are grown from a small space, not to mention a challenging landscape with plenty of stone and a strong Atlantic prevailing wind. All of the fresh produce grown is sold to local shops and restaurants, as well as in the on-farm shop. Aonghus is particularly interested in regenerative farming; composting, soil health and building fertility is of utmost importance to this farming system. Compost is made on the farm using food waste from local café’s and restaurants, seaweed and other organic material from the land. Aonghus is passionate about his local Gaeltacht community and has worked hard to educate the local community in terms of where their food comes from and how it is grown. His mission is to produce high quality, fresh and nutritious veg for the local community. He is open and willing to share his farming advice and story with anyone who would like to learn, and he takes a number of interns and volunteers on the farm every year.Read more about Aonghus Johnny Choil Mhaidhc Ó Coistealbha
Bruce Thompson runs dairy farm in Ballyfin County Laois. He is an 8th generation farmer. The farm which was traditionally a mixed farm is now a commercial dairy farm with a herd of 320 cows. In line with the Teagasc dairy roadmap, Bruce operates a grass based, high efficiency production system. With a young family, Bruce maintains that his farm has to be economically viable, and he is proud to currently employ 2 fulltime staff members on his farm.
In 2020, Bruce started a Nuffield Scholarship and from this he developed a passion for dung beetles. On his own farm he has a particular interest in reducing animal remedies through prevention, with a focus on animal wormers. He has made dramatic reductions in his wormer usage by making use of his farm microscope for diagnosis and pioneering new grazing strategies. Bruce is a strong advocate in the farming community for the urgent need to protect our dung beetle populations. He has started an EIP which is focusing on a targeted and selective approach to animal wormers in order to protect and increase dung beetle populations on the land. Bruce also successfully breeds dung beetles on his farm. Other nature actions taken on his farm include managing hedgerows for biodiversity, planting additional hedgerows and incorporating multi-species swards into his grassland.
Bruce believes more focus must be paid to the integration of ecology and agriculture. He is confident that food production and environmental protection can and must happen simultaneously.Read more about Bruce Thompson
James Ham farms along his wife Martina in Mooyvore Co. Westmeath. Their 52ha farm is 50% under woodland/forestry and the other 50% is mature multispecies pasture including approximately 4ha of spring barley which is used for feed and straw. James has worked hard at greatly reducing the number of chemical inputs on the farm over the years. No insecticides have ever been used on the farm, and over the last 10 years the level of fungicide used on the crop has been reduced to the point that none was applied last year. Chemical fertiliser inputs have also been cut back and replaced with farmyard manure. They run a small suckler herd of about 20 Aubrac cows. There is over 4000 metres of hedgerow on the farm, equivalent to approx. 1.5ha of linear woodland, which is left mostly left untrimmed. Regular hedge maintenance is by traditional hedge laying. These thick and mature hedges provide not only a crucial habitat for birds and insects, but also shelter for the livestock. The continuous cover forestry system contains a wide range of hardwood and softwood trees. Tree species include hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, crab apple, oak, elm, holly, sycamore, alder, beech, birch, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Larch, Scots Pine and more. James maximised the amount of open spaces within the forestry plantations to help create wildflower reservoirs for insects and the wet areas and drains are ideal for dragonflies. “The afforested half of the farm, despite being relatively young, has greatly improved the amount of wildlife on the farm. Pine martin are now present, and the Jays are obviously doing their job, as we see little oak and hazel seedlings all over the site.”Read more about James Ham
Cathal and Bronagh O’ Rourke
Cathal and Bronagh O’Rourke along with their three daughters manage a 500-acre farm in the Burren County Clare. The cattle finishing farming system is complimented by a successful on-site agri-tourism business. The farm is a mix of green land, mature hazel woodland, limestone pavement, turlough and species rich grassland. Part of the farm is within the Burren National Park and Lough Bunny is situated on the land.
The O’Rourke family are part of the Burren Farming Programme where they take numerous actions to support nature and wildlife on the land. These include clearing scrubland to link up grazable areas, grazing cattle on the Winterage to encourage the growth of native Burren flora and reducing inputs in the improved agricultural areas of the farm. Some of their beef produce is sold direct to customers which has proven to be a successful alternative route to market option. They are part of the Hares Corer Project which involves the planting of native Burren Pine on the land.
Cathal and Bronagh are passionate about educating people on the natural beauty, the flora and fauna, and the local heritage of the Burren region. There is an abundance of birds on the land including the occasional Hen Harrier. They describe their way of farming as a lifestyle which respects and enhances the land of which they are custodians of.
Pat Mulrooney is a lifelong farmer who runs an organic dairy farm near Clonmel County Tipperary. Originally a conventional tillage farmer, Pat transitioned to organic in 1987 and now runs a dairy system, milking approximately 90 cows. Pat is a founding member of the organic dairy co-op The Little Milk Company, and approximately 90% of his milk is supplied to this dairy to produce organic Irish cheese. Pat also grows 20 acres of organic oats for Flahavans.
A pioneer in organic dairy farming in Ireland, Pat has used no artificial sprays or nitrogen on his land in over 30 years. Veterinary intervention is used only when absolutely necessary. The farm is managed in the most extensive manner possible while remaining within the parameters of a commercial organic dairy farm.
A nature lover his entire life, Pat has taken numerous actions on his farm to protect and enhance nature on the land. Hedgerows are managed for wildlife and biodiversity. Multispecies mature pastures provide habitat for insects as well as varied diet for his livestock. Areas of meadow and mature woodland also provide a crucial habitat for insects and birds on the land.Read more about Pat Mulrooney
David Dennison runs a vineyard and orchard in County Waterford. David is the founder of Viking Irish Drinks, producing craft wine and cider on his farm in Waterford. The 1-hectare vineyard, which was planted in 2010, provides red and white grapes for wine. There is 2.2 hectares of cider apple trees to produce craft cider. They also produce liqueurs and are now experimenting with alcohol-free beverages. They grow blackcurrants and blackberries on the land, as well as keeping some hives of honeybees.
The entire system is managed with huge sensitivity towards nature and wildlife on the land. David is in the process of Organic conversion; however no chemical sprays have been used on the farm in 20 years. There are different habitats on the farm including woodland areas, meadow, thick hedgerows and 1.5 acres of wetland. Research by the National Biodiversity Data Center stated there are very healthy populations of insects on the land, including bees, hoverflies, beetles. An array of different birds live on the farm including jay thrushes, swallows, buzzards, snipe, woodcock, goldfinches and hen pheasants. There is a reed-bed system to clean wastewater from the wine and cider production. In 2008 David planted an area of nut trees including hazelnut, cobnut and walnuts trees in an effort to provide habitat for red squirrel on the land.Read more about David Dennison
Rob O Foghlú
Rob Ó Foghlú and his partner Ciara bought 12.5 acres of land in 2017 and established Gortnacrusha Biodiversity Farm. The farm is a mix of permanent pasture and a steep glen which runs down to a stream. The pair have been gradually building the farm and doing so in a way that works with the natural landscape of the site as well as its existing habitats. They started by planting 5000 trees on the land, a variety of native and non-native trees which act as a shelter belt as well as creating additional habitat and improving soil structure. They also planted 400 meters of native hedgerows on the farm. They then planted 3 orchards on the land, with apple, damson and cobnut trees, each about 1/3 of an acre. The next project was the planting of 1 acre of inoculated truffle trees (pine and hazel) in the hope that these will produce an annual truffe harvest in the future. Finally, in 2020, Rob and Ciara started their market garden business. There are 2 commercial polytunnels and an outdoor growing area on the farm. They produce a wide variety of vegetables including salad leaves, tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergine, courgette and much more. The fresh produce is sold direct to restaurants, cafes and shops in the local area. They also have an apiary on the land and sell honey. The old meadow, which is a unique habitat in this part of the country, is managed purely for biodiversity and contains an impressive variety of plant and grass species including the wild orchid. It is a haven for insects and birds in the summer months.Read more about Rob O Foghlú
Philip and Ann Moynagh
Philip and Ann Moynagh started Corduff Organic Farm in 1999 with the main intention of producing healthy, organic and fresh food for themselves and their family. The farm quickly developed into a successful organic horticulture and beef system as it remains today. Currently there are 3 large polytunnels which are no-dig systems and there is 2 acres of field vegetables. Compost is made on the farm. A variety of vegetables are sold direct to customers via a vegetable box scheme. There is a small herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus and Irish Moiles on the farm. Philip believes that these breeds are well suited to the heavier land as they are less likely to poach and damage the soil. A big believer in regenerative agriculture, Philip grazes the cattle in a paddock grazing system where they are moved to fresh pasture every day.
Pioneers of organic Irish vegetable production, Ann and Philip are passionate about education, and they believe in the value of showing people how to produce food in a way that works with nature rather than against it. They have welcomed over 140 WWOOFers to their farm over the years. They get immense joy and fulfilment watching people from all over the world learn first-hand the importance of local and organic food production. Philip and Ann have put up bee and bird boxes around the farm. Hedgerows are managed for biodiversity and wildlife. No chemicals are used on the land and external inputs are kept to an absolute minimum.
Paul McCormick & Jacinta French
Paul and Jacinta run a 30-acre mixed farm near Skibbereen County Cork. There is about 16 acres of grassland and 14 acres of mixed woodland on the farm. Some of the woodland is mature with old native trees and other parts were planted by Paul and Jacinta over the years. Having previously run a tree nursery, they experiment with different trees such as cobnut, chestnut, walnut and heartnut trees. They breed a small herd of Droimeann cattle, producing high quality beef that is sold direct to neighbours and friends. Interested in agroforestry, Paul has spent a number of years converting parts of the woodland to a pasture-based wood. Meaning the animals graze the woodland during the summer and autumn season, but in the spring the woodland is left to give spring flowers the opportunity to bloom. Paul and Jacinta are also working hard to re-diversify the grassland as much as possible. One way they are doing this is by feeding a specifically selected multi-species hay to the cattle over the summer months, in the hope that the cattle will help to reintroduce these different grass species back into the seedbank of the soil.
Paul and Jacinta take deep consideration for biodiversity and wildlife with every decision they make on the land. There are a few ponds on the land and a river also flows through the farm. Other valuable habitats include the permanent pasture, woodland, a riparian zone along the riverfront and areas of rewilded land. They are delighted to witness the return of bird species like the tree creeper, the red pole, the goldcrest and buzzards to the farm.
The McDonagh family run an organic mixed farm in county Mayo. They keep cows, sheep, pigs, ducks and hens. They grow 2 acres of organic root vegetables which are sold locally. They have planted over 8 acres of mixed broadleaf forestry on the land. The mature hedgerows and field boundaries are left to grow naturally and serve as important habitats for birds and other wildlife. They continue to plant trees on the farm every year.
Relying on very few external inputs, the family have built a farm that is highly self-sufficient and resilient to environmental and economic shocks. The grazing paddocks contain a diverse mix of grasses and herbs. The animals provide manure which is a crucial source of fertility for the vegetable beds. They use green manures to naturally increase the nitrogen content of the soil where the vegetables are grown.
Eamonn has worked with draft horses and more recently with oxen to work the land. The draft animals are used to carry out many of the farm tasks – from harvesting trees from the wooded part of the farm to harrowing vegetable beds. The McDonagh’s have hosted farm walks on the farm for Slow Food Ireland and the Small Growers Network. “This farm is a testament to what can be achieved when a love of nature is coupled with a passion for local, sustainable food and when diversification is championed over specialisation.”
Fergal and his family farm 65 hectares in County Kildare. The farm is organic and includes tillage, suckler cows, sheep and turkeys for the Christmas market. All animals are finished on a home-grown ration, nothing is bought in only seeds. Fergal grows a combicrop including red clover to finish his cattle.Read more about Fergal Byrne
Anthony Mooney from county Kildare runs a 200-acre beef farm with the help of his wife Mary Rose and son Conor. He runs a herd of between 100-120 cross-bred continental cattle. Anthony is passionate about biodiversity and nature conservation and this is reflected in his low-input farming system. Ponds, meadows, woodland and hedgerows are all important habitats on the farm.Read more about Anthony Mooney
Gerard Deegan is a lifelong farmer from Co. Westmeath. 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. An advocate for diverse forestry systems, Gerard has planted approximately 60 different species of trees on the farm. He also runs a small suckler herd producing organic beef. Gerard is involved in Social Farming and a member of Leitrim Organic Farmers Coop since 1990.Read more about Gerard Deegan
Justina & Liam Gavin
The Gavin family moved their young family back from the UK in 2012, to take over Liam’s 200 year old family farm. They came with two ambitions, to feed their family with wholesome food grown by themselves and to try and generate a sustainable and independent income for the farm by supplying organic produce directly to customers.Read more about Justina & Liam Gavin
Stuart has focused on improving the health of his soil over the past 5 years. In order to improve the soil he has cut the use of toxic
pesticides, and cut the use of chemical fertilisers. The focus on the farm is diversity. It is a soil up approach.
Starting with the smallest creatures in the soil, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, up to larger creatures like beetles and
Henry O Donnell
Henry is working on a EIP project to encourage grazing of the uplands of Inishowen. He has organic Galloways and sheep on 92 hectares.Read more about Henry O Donnell
Approximately 90acres of the land is in grassland with 70acres in tillage. Graham has 140 ewes and 160 lambs and is moving increasingly towards the Belclare breed. “Obviously for farmers converting to organic one of the main concerns is stocking rates, which was not an issue for me as I am stocked relatively low but this is certainly something that must be an important consideration.”Read more about Graham Harris
Paul Moore runs a tillage and beef farm near Middleton county Cork. The mixed 140-acre farm is comprised of 95 acres of tillage and the remaining 45 acres is mature grassland and is used to produce 35 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.Read more about Paul Moore
Norman and Michael Dunne
Norman Dunne along with his father Michael Dunne, run a 400-acre tillage farm outside Maynooth, Co. Kildare. After moving away from an intensive tillage system a few years ago, these farmers have been focusing on regenerating soil biology and reducing external inputs where possible on the farm. They now operate min-till system, using multi-species cover crops, crop rotations and biodynamic seed preparations. 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.Read more about Norman and Michael Dunne
Pat is a sheep farmer with 6ha of bog/heath and wet grassland in the heart of the Stack’s to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle SPA breeding Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (SPA). Pat joined the Hen Harrier Program in 2020. He has been focused on the delivery of high quality habitats to support of wildlife.Read more about Patrick Higgins
Dan O Donoghue
Dan is a sucker farmer with 21 ha of wet grassland , species rich grassland, improved grassland and blanket bog in the heart of the Stack’s to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle SPA breeding Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (SPA). Dan joined the Hen Harrier Program in 2017 and was a one of 12 development farms used to develop the project.Read more about Dan O Donoghue
In one way Lugnamackan could be perceived as a hobby farm, as John’s principal income comes from his work as a vet and he spends a lot of his CAP payments on landscaping projects like dry stone walls and ponds that most farmers would regard as follies. But John makes a clear distinction between his stewardship of the land and the farming enterprise that is part of it – “the livestock that lives here must pay their way”.Read more about John Robinson
Batt farms with his wife Ger and family on his organic dairy farm in Ballynoe in the Bride valley. He is a passionate farmer with an environmental conscience that reflects the way he farms. Despite being in the heart of an intensive farming landscape and being the only organic dairy farm in the Bride valley, Batt has stuck to the task of producing quality milk with a high standard of environmental care while also showcasing the highest standards in animal welfare.Read more about Batt Sheehan
Eoghan Daltun has a small farm of 73 acres (including 40 acres of mountain commonage) overlooking the Atlantic near Eyeries on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork. For the last 12 years he has been rewilding 21.5 acres of his own ground, giving this area entirely over to nature, mostly in the form of highly species-rich native Atlantic temperate rainforest.Read more about Eoghan Daltun
Marc Sagarzazu & Brid og Norrby
Marc and Bríd óg have been farming 36 acres in North West Kildare for the past 17 years. Marc is originally from Barcelona and Brid og has lived most of her life on the farm.The farm has been in the same family for three generations. It has a good selection of mature trees in small woodland areas dotted around the farm. It also borders the bog of Allen and a Special Area of Conservation.Read more about Marc Sagarzazu & Brid og Norrby
PJ. Dooley takes a very holistic approach to Farming for Nature, he strives to engage with community through sharing projects with them on his 38 acre certified organic farm. His aim is to enhance biodiversity, revitalise the rural area and enrich community wellbeing.Read more about PJ Dooley
Louis McAuley farms 1700 acres in partnership with other family members, the farm consists of 1400 acres of cropping and 300 acres of grass all based on owned and rented land and contract farming arrangements. The grassland is used for his own dairy calf to bull beef enterprise with silage been sold to local farmers. The cropping side of the farm is quite diverse and mainly consists of wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape and beans, so along with the grassland, this makes Louis’s farm perfect for Conservation Agriculture (CA).Read more about Louis McAuley
A lifetime farmer, Colm openly admits to have come from a time of when you lived off the land, snared rabbits, eat pheasant and pigeon. From his poacher days, he has a deep awareness of all things wild, and now turned keeper, brings a wealth of knowledge to any debate on the future of farming in Ireland.Read more about Colm Flynn
Mona and Harry Muller and their daughter Alanna farm Glendree Organic Farm in County Clare. The farm is in the Slieve Aughty Mountains breeding Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (SPA). They practice biodynamic farming on their 32 ha of wet grassland in the southern part of the SPA. The whole family play a role in making the farm work for them, the local community and the local landscape.Read more about Muller Family
Alan specialises in growing vegetables for their own market stalls, along with a cereals enterprise and also a sheep enterprise. Alan is one of the first commercial vegetable growers in Ireland, to grow field scale vegetables using Conservation Agriculture principles which presents huge challenges.Read more about Alan Feighery
Madeline McKeever & Holly Cairns
They are the owners of Brown Envelope Seeds, one of only two farms in Ireland producing vegetable seeds. They produce around 100 varieties of seeds, growing a mixture of old and modern varieties, selecting those that perform well and further adapt to the Irish climate. They strive to produce good, organically certified, open pollinated seeds to Irish growers. It is important to them because open pollinated seeds are populations that carry a diverse mix of genes. They have a deep rooted commitment to preserving seed sovereignty and plant biodiversity.Read more about Madeline McKeever & Holly Cairns
Patrick O Sullivan
Patrick is a participant in the Reeks EIP project. He has been willing to try new initiatives on the commonage to improve the condition of the upland peatland habitat, including the re-introduction of suitable breeds of cattle, and has even purchased a few Droimeann cattle to trial controlled grazing during the summer months.Read more about Patrick O Sullivan
Nia O Malley
At present approx. 750 acres are dedicated to the reintroduction and preservation of native species to the area in county Meath. It was a difficult decision to make and required a significant financial sacrifice, however due to the remainder of his estate in tillage and forestry he has found a way to make rewilding financially sustainable. Randal believes that the biodiversity from the rewilding land has had a positive impact on the crop yields in his land dedicated to tillage as well as neighbouring tillage farms. This, in addition to ensuring other good biodiversity practices such as replanting and maintenance of native hedgerows has also been beneficial to tillage output in the area.Read more about Randal Plunkett
Dermot Doran is a second generation to farm the family farm. He is a full-time farmer. He has moved from a intensive dairy farm system to a forestry, rewilding, reduced stock rate system.Read more about Dermot Doran
Noel Kiernan farms 250 acres of mixed land and habitat – there is forestry, marsh, bogland, pasture and hay meadows. A naturalist his entire life, Noel is passionate about conservation in all forms – from native flora and fauna, to native Irish livestock breeds. Noel is a forester as well as a farmer and he is passionate about combining forestry and farming, as he believes these practices can be mutually beneficial when managed sustainably. There is 100 acres of native broadleaf forestry on the land.Read more about Noel Kiernan
Rena Blake & Lisa Fingleton
Rena and Lisa are exemplary examples of farming for nature. With local food, community and environment at the core of everything they do. They have a small mixed farm.Read more about Rena Blake & Lisa Fingleton
Avril & Willie Allshire
Avril is one of the most passionate people when it comes to highlighting how a farmer can work with nature. She with her husband Willie set up their farm and product free range pork products under the Rosscarbery Recipes brand directly from their farm.Read more about Avril & Willie Allshire
Michael is a fantastically well managed farm in Moate Co Westmeath. His planning and direction is very much farming with nature. While he is in the early stages, we would think that Michael is a very suitable candidate for a Farming for Nature Ambassadorship.Read more about Michael Kelly
Pat is a Dexter farmer in north County Monaghan. He has close to 100 dexter animals. In Glas. No chemical fertiliser input on the pasture. Only manure/slurry. Planted 10 acres broadleaf forestry 8 years ago. Hedges on farm haven’t been touched in 15 years & are fantastic wildlife habitat. He markets beef directly to restaurant trade as it is a premium product.Read more about Pat McKenna
Colm Gavin farms in the Bundorragha catchment in Mayo. He farms 85 mountain ewes on a mosaic of peatland and wet grasslands. Colm is a participant farmer in 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. Colm is farming in the top Freshwater Pearl Catchment in Europe.Read more about Colm Gavin
Gearoid is a relatively young dairy farmer and is passionate about biodiversity and sustainability. Gearoid farms in partnership with his wife Sarah and their young daughter, Sally Kate. They farm a total of 80 hectares of which 8.5 hectares is in forestry. The land is quite a heavy soil type and needs a lot of care and attention to prevent damage. The grazing season ranges from 220 to 240 days. The land will always be idle for a minimum of four months of the year, Gearoid does not push the farm, he lets the farm work for him.Read more about Gearoid Maher
This is a most unusual and valuable area of species rich grassland and is like an oasis in the midst of a highly developed area with mobile home parks, holiday homes and associated land uses. The fact that this treasure has survived to this day is testament to a traditional style of farming practice in “Farming for Nature” of the Redmond Family over the years. The grassland is a highly valuable seed source for many once widespread species in the Irish Countryside and Mr Redmond has arrangements to harvest seeds produced so as they may be re-distributed to other areas for restoration projects etc.Read more about Nicholas Redmond
Dominic & Fionnuala Gryson farm just outside Ashbourne in Co. Meath . This is an area of intensive cereals and vegetable growing. The farm was part converted to Organic Farming in 2020, with the remainder converting in 2021. They have participated in GLAS since 2017 .Dominic has a great interest in Nature and has put a nature corridor around the perimeter of the farm with a view to opening it up to the public . He chose the Grey Partridge and Arable Strips under GLAS as well as Wild Bird Cover He has also planted an orchard and some forestry on the farm Dominic is also growing old heritage varieties of cereals in order to mill his own flower and produce long straw for thatching.Read more about Dominic Gryson
Eamonn is a wonderful example of a farmer who understands the importance and benefits of small-scale, hands-on farming in harmony with the natural world. Together with his wife, Geraldine, and their two children, he stewards a 30-acre certified organic mixed farm. His farm integrates animal, vegetable and woodland enterprises to produce food, fuel and fibre while at the same time it creates an oasis for pollinators, wildlife, and native species.Read more about Eamonn McDonagh
Simon & Ru Kenny
Simon and Ru Kenny are a young couple returning to Simon’s family conventional arable operation and putting the breaks on. They witnessed the soil’s degradation through intensive tillage and synthetic fertiliser applications, and made a brave move by deciding the first step was to stop. After the last grain harvest, Simon sowed diverse pasture mixes and let the land heal. Healthy pastures need well-managed ruminants, so they used a flock of sheep to manage the pastures in the first year but now they plan to introduce some light framed cattle as the main future enterprise.Read more about Simon & Ru Kenny
Michael McManus hails from county Leitrim where he farms a suckler herd over 180 acres. Michael operates a rotational grazing system on this organic farm. 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.
With that is mind they are producing beauty products at Spa Cottage from the sulphur springs that exist on the farm. They are also at an advanced stages of developing an old sweat house on the farm and to develop heated spas using solar and hydropower on the farm as an ecotourism business. The sulphur spas were first recorded in the 16th century on the farm but it is believed that they are probably of Celtic origin, used by them and were known always to have positive dermatology results.Read more about Michael McManus
Stephen & Eva Hegarty
Stephen and Eva Hegarty farm 11 hectares of lowland grassland amid the drumlin landscape of
Kilfenora, Co. Clare. Stephen grew up in the area and his partner Eva is from Finland. They manage
the farm together, and both espouse a way of farming and living that places the environment and the
welfare of their animals at the forefront: no chemical fertilisers, no pesticides, no tail docking, no
animals in crates and no addition of medication to the feed.
Rod & Julie Calder-Potts
Highbank orchard is a fantastic organic farm produces top quality produce from their apples. From award winning apple syrup to cider and gin. They’re huge supporters of local food producers as well as advocates for organic farming, nature and soil health. Their farm have a large variety of wonderful wildlife habitats. They give farm tours to individuals as well as large groups. They host talks, lectures, events and workshops in beautifully restored out buildings. They encompass a broad spectrum in how they farm and encourage learning about all kinds of foods from the farming of raw ingredients to the end produce. They are an excellent example of what a farming for nature ambassador should be about.Read more about Rod & Julie Calder-Potts
Mr James Breslin is an innovative Inishowen hill farmer who has taken the decision to adopt changes to the management of his farm through the introduction of sustainable environmentally friendly farming methods with the aim to make his farm a profitable enterprise by contributing positively to the household and not a drain on it.Read more about James Breslin
Cat & Kieran Roseblade
Cat and Kieran are relatively new entrants to farming. They are bravely and wisely tackling the serious shortage of ethically raised, organic pigs and poultry. Producing pork, bacon, chickens, turkeys and eggs and direct selling they are a complete package. This is the type of small farm that can sustain a family, feed a local community and do so in symbiosis with the natural environment. This is what farming should be all about!Read more about Cat & Kieran Roseblade
McNally Family Farm converted from conventional crop and cattle farming to Organic & direct to customer farming in 1996. The farm is 77 acres, 3 acres covered with poly tunnels and about 27 acres of outdoor growing. They grow over 50 lines of produce seasonally throughout the year and sell direct to customers in farmers markets in Co. Dublin and from their farm shop in North Co. Dublin. They also keep flocks of organic hens and ducks for egg production and rear organic turkeys for the Christmas market. They make yoghurt and jams throughout the year. They have been supplying many of the country’s top restaurants with produce for years.Read more about McNally Family
Tom has blazed a trail with enthusiasm, cutting out harmful inputs and restoring soil health with the help of Korean Natural farming. Korean Natural farming is a regenerative approach to dealing with our farms, harnessing indigenous micro-organisms to improve the health of soil and subsequently all the plants and animals and people who depend on soil.Read more about Thomas Stack
Fergal Anderson & Emanuela Russo
Fergal and his partner Manu run a 5 acre market garden with mature woodland also. They have a very tiny setup and we’re one of the first csa’s in the country. They use lots of cover crops in the market garden and have quite a mix of fruit trees. They are a shining example of what small scale horticulture can look like. They have a lot of woodland around there garden which makes a wildlife haven and again an example of how production can fit in along with nature.Read more about Fergal Anderson & Emanuela Russo
Joe & Aoife Reilly
Joe and Aoife are a fantastic example of what’s possible on a few acres. 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.Read more about Joe & Aoife Reilly
Cathal Mooney of Heather Hill Farm 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. Cathal runs a Holistic Planned Grazing System for the stock and has implemented a silvopasture system on the land where fruit trees, nut trees and berry bushes have been planted throughout the grassland.Read more about Cathal Mooney
Brendan Guinan hails from Geashill on the Laois-Offaly border. A few years ago he embarked on a journey of transforming 26 acres of neglected forestry land just outside Portlaoise town into a truly regenerative farm that will stand up to financial, environmental and conventional scrutiny. He began converting this forestry land into a diverse agro-forestry based system with many enterprises including poultry, pigs, cattle, lumbar and a market garden. He directly sells this produce to customers and through other local businesses.Read more about Brendan Guinan
Rathcon farm is a diverse farming enterprise comprising of about 280 acres of agriculture and agroforestry, 58 acres of mixed forestry and a fishing lake. Dermot and Jen currently farm Christmas trees, Sheep, Short Rotation Coppice for biomass and tillage.Read more about Dermot Page
Michael’s farm is a beef farm in Limerick. He used to be an intensive farm similar to a typical dairy farm but about 5 years ago they started transitioning to become a biological farm. So the main changes have seen a huge reduction in chemical use on farm.Read more about Michael Costello
John runs a sheep and suckler to beef family farm in the Wicklow hills. John is farming in a way that respects nature in a very picturesque part of the country. Since joining BASE he has a willingness to share his farming practices while also an active learner.Read more about John Pringle
Trevor Harris runs two farms in Co.Kildare, 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 6 restaurants in Dublin, a box scheme and retail.Read more about Trevor Harris
Andrew Bergin farms 320 acres of tillage in Co.Kildare. He has been practising 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.Read more about Andrew Bergin
Thomas Keane farms in the Dawros catchment in Connemara, Co.Galway. 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.Read more about Thomas Keane
Pádraig Moran is a farmer based in west Offaly, south of Banagher, near the River Little Brosna. The story of the esker on Pádraig’s farm is a remarkable one. It had been quarried, and the gravel provided a good source of income. Once designated as an SAC however, for the important and rare semi-natural grassland that the esker supported, quarrying had to stop. And not only that – the grassland on the esker ridge now needed help in order to be restored.Read more about Pádraig Moran
Regan Organic is a small family farm based business near Enniscorthy. It is owned and managed by Mary Regan having inherited it from her late father Tom. From a very young age she had a passion for animals and nature and was constantly at her fathers heels. The farm has been fully organic since 2006. The ethos of the business is to try and farm and rear the animals in harmony with nature.Read more about Mary Regan
Bruce believes that Ireland is a fantastic place to produce good clean food and our reputation of “Clean, Green” is something to take pride in. However he also believes we can’t take that for granted. Bruce takes a lot of pride in “his” environment, getting excited to show off “his” Buzzards, red squirrels or pine Martins.Read more about Bruce Thompson
Deirdre O’Sullivan and Norman Kenny
Deirdre and Norman have worked tirelessly over the years to build up a successful dynamic business and in the process have gathered a loyal customer base. In 2001 they bought an adjoining twenty-six acres increasing their growing area substantially, the farm is certified by the Irish Organic Association.Read more about Deirdre O’Sullivan and Norman Kenny
Patrick Frankel runs an organic farm just beside Doneraile Park in Doneraile, Co. Cork. He has beef and sheep, forestry and he grows a wide range of organic vegetables for sale direct to consumers and also to supply up to 30 restaurants in Cork city and the surrounding areas. Patrick is a great producer with a deep interest in biodiversity, soil heath and sustainable food production.Read more about Patrick Frankel
James has become acutely aware of the threat to his farm’s viability from being a primary producer at the foot of a commodity-milk supply chain. He is now exploring the options to regain his business independence by adding value to his milk and by reducing the farm’s dependence on milk sales.Read more about James Foley
The Shackleton Family
The Shackleton family farm 320-acres in Co.Cavan 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.Read more about The Shackleton Family
Sinead Moran and Michael McGrath
Sinéad Moran & Michael 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.Read more about Sinead Moran and Michael McGrath
Aongus (Chóil Mhaidhc) Ó Coisdealbha
Aonghus is a charismatic young man with a big vision. His life’s work is to grow food organically and on a small scale, without chemicals or machinery, for the people of Conamara and surrounding areas. Having spent years abroad working on organic farms in different countries, and studying their methods and permaculture, Aonghus decided it was time to return to his birthplace and create a smallholding there, using all he’d learned alongside the older, traditional methods he grew up with.Read more about Aongus (Chóil Mhaidhc) Ó Coisdealbha
OURganic Gardens is an outdoor environmental education centre offering advice and small scale educational packages centered on food, sustainability,and the environment. Joanne and Milo Butler have worked to enhanced, encourage, protect and improve the biodiversity and heritage that the local landscape has to offer. The educational packages provide people with the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about how they live their lives within the natural environment, while surrounded by the beauty and wonder of the landscape that OURganic Gardens has to offer. The farm using permaculture, no dig and other holistic methods. The not only make space for nature on their small patch, they recognise they are part of it and their work and techings reflect that.Read more about Joanne Butler
Patsy Carrucan deserves national recognition for his work in farming as he is a true ambassador for farming for nature. Patsy is very proud of the Burren, his homeland, and nature, and he has worked tirelessly to help develop a results-based agri-environment programme with his great input into BurrenLIFE and Burren Programme. On his own farm Patsy has changed his management on the coastal grasses of his farm, to ensure more plants flower. Patsy has maintained a high quality species rich grassland Winterage because of his excellent management based on long experience of farming a Winterage.Read more about Patsy Carrucan
Kylie is a full time farmer pursuing a life long dream of returning to farming to grow ethical and innovative produce. She has created a business from a hobby of 10 hens to 800 hens producing eggs which are all gathered, graded, packed and sold by hand under the “Magners Farm” label.Read more about Kylie Magner
Mimi and Owen Crawford
Mimi Crawford operates Crawford’s Farm with her husband Owen. Theirs is a small traditional Irish working farm, comprising of twenty-eight acres in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. Here, the husband and wife duo farm cattle, poultry and pigs. The idea for their farm business stemmed from the combination of local demand and a desire to produce as much of their own food as possible.Read more about Mimi and Owen Crawford
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.Read more about Jim Cronin
Cyril Ó Flaithearta
Cyril Ó Flaithearta runs the family farm based on Inis Mór island, 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 island to the other and contains fine examples of species rich grassland and the associated biodiversity with them. Active management by Cyril and his family maintain these grasslands, maintaining and rebuilding stone walls to control the grazing livestock, controlling encroaching scrub on to the grasslands and continuance of the traditional winterage management system that have created and maintained these grasslands but also adopting any new methods such as improvements in animal breeding and nutrition to improve the agricultural output of the farm.Read more about Cyril Ó Flaithearta
Donie Anderson’s family have farmed in the Glenasmole Valley in the Dublin uplands for generations, and along with his wife and daughter, he continues this tradition today. Donie is passionate about keeping traditional farming skills alive so that they can be passed to the next generation. He believes that these methods are more nature friendly than modern approaches and the abundance of wildlife found on his farm is testament to this.Read more about Donie Anderson
James is part of the Inishowne Farmers Upland EIP. He has a number of measures that he is doing to help biodiversity.Read more about James Breslin
Pat is an 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.Read more about Pat Lalor
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 has a good understanding of the project objectives. He has demonstrated great willingness and is open to trialling new approaches on his farm. The land included in the project supports wet heath habitat that has been heavily grazed in the past resulting in extensive spread of bracken and increased levels of gorse which are above optimum for this habitat. 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.Read more about Kieran Doona
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, nature based farming and connecting his community to nature.Read more about John McHugh
Stephen Morrison and his young family live on the 300-acre family farm near Kill, Co Kildare. They are the 3rd generation of the family to farm there. 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 has ensured that he farms in a balanced way and that he has a low impact on the wildlife that live and breed on these lands.
You can find more information on the work that Stephen and Heidi do on their farm through their website https://soearthprojects.com/Read more about Stephen Morrison
Tom has a connection and passion for his place, its fabulous natural history and also its unspoilt mystic landscape. It has really old native trees including the oldest hazel tree in Ireland. The land is covered in history and archaeology. His own family (Kilbrides through his mother) have been farming it for 400 years.Read more about Tom Coffey
Tom is an organic, min-till, stockless, arable farmer – those are adjectives that generally do not sit together and can only be achieved successfully with a deep understanding of soil and plants.Read more about Thomas Fouhy
Walter Phelan, native to Attanagh, Co. Laois, has worked tirelessly over many decades, at great personal cost, to ensure the traditional farming knowledge and local farm methods are preserved for future generations. It is with this deep-set determination that Walter has farmed his lands just over the County boundary in Ballyoskill, Co. Kilkenny, often in conflict with officialdom, to keep the natural character of his lands and hedgerows so that the intrinsic native biodiversity has a refuge from many of the intensive methods that surround his lands. In keeping with this objective Walter incorporates, up-cycles and reuses traditional farm wrought iron gates, dis-used electrical poles and local stone, where possible. The hedgerows are lovingly managed, by hand, with gaps infilled with native pollinator friendly species such as hawthorn, holly with ash and oak on drier banks.Read more about Walter Phelan
Irish Seed Savers Association
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.Read more about Irish Seed Savers Association
Thomas and Claire O Connor
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”Read more about Thomas and Claire O Connor
Oliver and his family farm 121 acres of winterage, meadow and pasture 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 recently won the national ‘Farming Together with Biodiversity’ award in recognition for his efforts in conservation farming.Read more about Oliver Nagle
Mark and Alison Hurst
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”Read more about Mark and Alison Hurst
Joe and Eileen Condon
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.”Read more about Joe and Eileen Condon
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.Read more about Bridget Murphy
The whole family have a keen interest in farming for nature and have been managing their small mixed stock organic farm with nature in mind for 23 years. They recognise their 25 hectare farm has many important high nature value habitats and do their best to balance farming with the conservation of these habitats. The farm supports a rich diversity of flowers, trees, lichens, mosses and ferns, grasses and sedges, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Farming is undertaken with this in mind. They are delighted to be custodians of these habitats and take this responsibility seriously.Read more about Birtwistle Family
I think Michael deserves full credit and definitely national recognition for his work in farming for nature. Michael is a part-time suckler farmer situated in Inagh county Clare who devotes his farming love to nature and wildlife.Read more about Michael Callinan
Mark has been a pioneer of Conservation Agriculture in Ireland. Incorporating it into his mixed farming system since returning to the family farm. Mark runs an Aberdeen Angus /Stabiliser herd as well as growing cereal crops and herbal leys.Read more about Mark Armitage
What Donna and her family are doing on their farm is easily replicable, providing species specific habitat enhancement for bats, other mammals, birds and insects. Sharing their knowledge and experiences through hosting classes, Bioblitz, the Moynalty Goes Wild festival and farm nature reserves, this farm is a testament to their passion for nature and a wonderful example of how everyone can make a difference for the better.Read more about Donna Mullen
Tommy Moloney farms with the wellbeing of his livestock, wild plants and animals foremost in his mind. He has retained native hedgerows, ancient forest, planted more native trees & protected wildflower meadows in spite of the financial cost to himself.Read more about Tom Moloney
Kate runs a 9-acre chemical free farm dedicated to biodiversity and permaculture in Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. The farm is a good example of which can be achieved in a short amount of time, both in terms of habitat building and yield production. Kate is currently on hiatus from vegetable production as she explores some new growing methods and agritourism opportunities. Normally Kate’s products include vegetables, fruits, and eggs 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 incorporates wildlife into all parts of the farm. “the farms first priority is offering a sanctuary, providing an oasis for wildlife, investing on the ecosystem services this can provide over time”. While the farm is on a break from commercial food production, workshops, camping and community events are available.Read more about Kate Egan
James is a founder member of the group that created the Inishowen Uplands European innovation Partnership. He has agreed to be a demonstration farmer for the project which will entail planting trees on the farm for the agroforestry measure, grazing cattle on the uplands in a managed way, establishing diverse clover swards, using red clover for fodder conservation and creating ponds on the farm.Read more about James Breslin
Suzanna’s farm is near Bennetts Bridge, in Kilkenny’s beautiful Nore Valley, and represents a stunning show home for her farming ideas. Suzanna embraces a suite of farming practices that results in healthy animals and high-quality produce, while simultaneously encouraging farmland biodiversity to thrive. At Suzanna’s farm, farming and nature occupy the same space, and are not forced into distinct zones lying adjacent to each other.Read more about Suzanna Crampton
Gareth has based his crop establishment on the key principles of conservation agriculture (CA). The 3 fundamental principles of CA are “no till”, “cover crops” and “rotation”. Along with these principles he has incorporate the reduction of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertiliser as well as not using any insecticides whatsoever. Biodiversity, insects and bees are an important part of any eco-system and Gareth embraces these fundamentals to build a sustainable future on his tillage farm
Companion cropping is a pivotal part of his farm and is defined as the planting of different crops in proximity for any different reasons.
Ian McGrigor and Eileen Carroll
I think this farmer deserves national recognition for his/her work in farming for nature because: Since 1991 Ian and Eileen have worked hard to create a beautiful oasis for bioidversity on their organic farm, 5 miles outside of Tralee, where they grow food, have created multiple habitats, host people in their wooden cabins, host educational visits and have many examples of sustainability that could be adapted to other farms.Read more about Ian McGrigor and Eileen Carroll
We’ve known Kilian and his family since 1998 when the Trust bought a derelict cottage near his farm that was being used by approximately 30 lesser horseshoe bats in summer. Since then Kilian has assisted us in a variety of ways, all of which have helped us in our work to conserve this colony, now numbering over 150 bats. Of all the bat species found in Ireland, the lesser horseshoe bat is the one most dependent on access to old buildings on farms.Read more about Killian Forde
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”.Read more about Mervyn Auchmuty
Ailbhe Gerrard has made a significant contribution to the protection and enhancement of nature on her farm and locality. Ailbhe took on the challenge to turn around a neglected farm through innovation and diversification to make a farm living.Read more about Ailbhe Gerrard
Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin
Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin is a young farmer working on 10 hectares on the Mullet Peninsula. NPWS and Feargal entered an agreement under the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme in March of 2016. The primary objective was 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.Read more about Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin
Connie O’Connor and his wife Julia farm 47 hectares near the source of the River Blackwater (Munster) at the foot of the Mullaghareirk Mountains on the Cork-Kerry border. His farm connects two Natura 2000 sites: the Stacks to Mullaghareirks SPA and the Blackwater River SAC. His farm is one of the project farms of the EU funded RaptorLIFE project, actively working to improve habitat for Annex species, especially Hen harrier, Atlantic salmon and Brook lamprey.Read more about Connie O’Connor
Sean is based West Cork. He keeps 150 Scotch Blackface mountain ewes and is ably assisted by his wife Anna their daughters Kayleigh, Abbey and Kera, and son Aidan. Sean’s love of his community is reflected in activism in the local IFA and Urhan GAA club. His inherent understanding of the importance of pride in our culture and heritage is clearly apparent around his 100ha farm that comprises a mosaic of high nature value wet grassland, peatland and semi- natural woodland habitats.Read more about Séan Sullivan
James is a suckler beef farmer in the Slieve Aughty Mountains Special Protection Area for breeding Hen Harrier. He became a participant in the Hen Harrier Programme in 2018. He has been an very active participant in the Programme and farms this important High Nature Value farmland area very sensitively.Read more about James Keane
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.”Read more about Clive Bright
Rúairí is a suckler beef farmer in the Slieve Aughty Mountains Special Protection Area for breeding Hen Harrier. He was a development farmer for the Hen Harrier Programme in 2017. He worked closely with the Hen Harrier Project team during that time, as the Programme was being developed.Read more about Ruairí Costello
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”Read more about Gerard Walshe
Olly and his partner Chris have planted over 1,000 native hedging and trees. They converted a disused sand arena into an organic vegetable garden, planted an orchard with mainly traditional fruit trees and keep rare breed animals from their small herd of Irish Dexters to a couple of rare breed pigs for the freezer. They have also leased a number of lands in the area.Read more about Olly Nolan
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”Read more about Michael Hickey
Michael Silke is an intensive dry stock and sheep farmer in the Shannon Callows. His 125ha farm is made up of “upland” (land that does not flood), and “callow land” (the portion designated as a SAC and SPA that is subject to flooding for up to six months of the year). His land on Inishee island is a nationally important breeding wader site for Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and Snipe.Read more about Michael Silke
John is someone who lives and breathes farming for conservation, he powerfully describes his environmentally friendly style of farming as being a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Darina Allen along with her husband, Tim own and run the Ballymaloe Organic Farm in East Cork includes one acre wide glasshouses which yield an abundance of fruit and vegetables throughout the year. The farm is also home to free-range livestock including pigs, beef and dairy cows (Angus, Kerry, Dexter and Jerseys), as well as many hens which provide a great supply of fresh, organic eggs. In addition, a further integral part of the Ballymaloe Organic Farm is Dairy. There are 6 Jersey cows which are milked daily to produce local cheese and yogurt.Read more about Darina Allen
Ciarán Ó Fatharta
Ciarán Ó Fatharta’s farm is on Inis Meáin, and like most Aran farmers, the farm is scattered throughout the island. Seventy five percent of the islands are within Special Areas of Conservation and most of Ciaráns farm is within the SAC on account of the fantastic Orchid-rich calcareous grassland, Limestone pavement and Machair habitat. These habitats and the incredible biodiversity associated with them have been conserved and maintained by the low intensity farming practiced by Ciarán and other Aran Island farmers.Read more about Ciarán Ó Fatharta
Kate works very hard in highlighting all matters environmental and promotes change from highly processed foods back to organic as nature intended.Read more about Kate Carmody
Campview farm lies partly within a Special Area of Conservation (Dunmuckrum Turlough) and a Special Protection Area (Donegal Bay) and encompasses a range of coastal and terrestrial habitats including Ireland’s most northerly turlough. It is a working farm but also involved in agri tourism, being on the Wild Atlantic Way; is a Bord Bia Quality Assured Farm and is actively engaged in Glás.Read more about Vaughan Family
Aidan is a young farmer who is very enthusiastic about all aspects of nature and farming. He is always open to trying new things on his farm to improve the conditions for wildlife and also for his beef herd. He understands the challenges of farming in the west of Ireland better than most and wants to keep the tradition going for future generations.Read more about Aidan Griffin
I attended a few open evenings/nature walks on Billy’s farm. I was impressed by Billy’s mixed habitats of pond, native woodland, hedgerows and species rich pasture. I also like his ethos in relation to Nature. I have no photos, only pictures in my mind.Read more about Billy Clancy
Moyhill Community Farm
The Moyhill CSA project supplies the local community with food. Recently a quired 60 acres to expand into regenerative beef farming. They are involved in soil regeneration, habitat restoration , mass planting native Irish trees. They hold a very strong community ethos.
All well documented on social media channels
Read more about Moyhill Community Farm
Donie Anderson is a hill farmer in the Dublin Mountains just a stone’s throw from the urban sprawl he farms in a very traditional way taking a great interest in the environment . He’s very involved in the Community where he lives with his wife and daughter and he’s a very active member of Wicklow Uplands Council and Wicklow Mountains National Park Council which both take in the Dublin MountainsRead more about Donie Anderson
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”Read more about Boyd Bryce
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”Read more about Tommy Earley
FARMING FOR NATURE AMBASSADOR 2018
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.Read more about Pat Dunne
Donal has always been hugely supportive of new initiatives taking place in the area e.g. re-introduction of the White Tailed Eagle, establishment of the MacGillycuddy Reeks Forum, development of an ‘app’ for the Kerry Way walking trail etc. He really cares about his livestock (sheep) and has a great understanding of the need to manage and protect the land he farms on. He has a wealth of information on the folklore of the area and a few years ago had an archaeological study undertaken on his land to find out more about the ‘unusual’ stone and rock formations.Read more about Donal Foley
Padraig is one of the youngest sheep farmers remaining farming on the MacGillycuddy Reeks, farming an exceptionally challenging landscape. Padraig is fifth generation here having taken over from his late father John. Padraig farms the commonage Coomcalee, which is 1,472 acres with the other shareholders. This commonage lies at the foot of Carrauntoohil so great patience is needed with over 125,000 walkers annually, passing through. Some of the walkers do not understand that the land is privately owned so Padraig says ‘sure I suppose how would they know unless someone tells them’.Read more about Padraig Donna
Martin lives in Keel, Co Mayo with his wife Angela. They have 8 daughters and two sons and have farmed on Achill Island for seven generations. Martin farms a herd of 150 Black-faced Mountain Sheep on his shareholding of an extensive (20,000 acre) commonage, as well as on an area of machair (a rare seaside habitat). These ‘Mayo blackhead ewes’ have been kept on this farm for many generations and are perfectly adapted to grazing the mosaic of protected habitats – from mountain to seashore – where they play a key role in maintaining local biodiversity. Martin is also a master butcher and he and his family have, since 1962, run the only abattoir on Achill island. The Calveys sell their trade-marked ‘Achill Mountain Lamb’ from their local shop as a high-quality food product, one which has won numerous awards and is the choice of many top-chefs through the west of Ireland, including Ashford Castle. Martin is a champion of good environmental management – a member of the local ‘custodians of the commonage’ group who helps ensure the land is properly cared for, as well as a great advocate for the link between habitat management, local food production and the added ecosystem and financial value that can result. As his daughter Martina says ‘We respect nature, we work with it and it rewards us very well’. They were the overall winners of the Farming for Nature Award 2018 through public vote.Read more about Calvey Family
Ailbhe Gerrard purchased Brookfield Farm, 26 ha, close to her Tipperary family home late 2010. Ailbhe took on the challenge to turn around a neglected farm through innovation and diversification to make a farm living. Ailbhe’s farm enterprises include: organically certified lamb, honey bees, agri-environment – including 3 ha flower meadows, conventional tillage, and, native woodland and broadleaf plantation.Read more about Ailbhe Gerrard
Claire is an organic farmer and works with her family to work in hand with nature to the benefit of wildlife and environmental sustainability in an area along the beautiful River Suir and amidst an intensive agricultural area. Maintenance of wildlife habitats and control of noxious weeds maintain a balance between nature and the working farm.Read more about Claire Wilkinson
Sean O’ Farrell
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 has been farming since he took over from his father 15 years ago and now keeps a 20 cow suckler herd, as well as pigs, poultry and goats.
A University graduate 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.Read more about Sean O’ Farrell
Ciaran is involved in creating a locally led project application for the Cooley Mountains. The project was created to seek investment that directly supported active hill farmers in his community. Bracken encroachment is a big issue on his commonage and on many others on the Cooley peninsula. Ciaran saw this locally led funding as a good opportunity to get something positive done in his community.Read more about Ciaran Sheelan
Padraig and his wife Bernadette, along with their four children, have a cattle and sheep enterprise on their holding in Mount Plunkett, near Lough Ree, Co. Roscommon. Padraic manages a 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. A modest man, he claims “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’. Padraig is very passionate about sharing his story with others: he has hosted numerous guided walks, courses and other events and has featured on RTE’s Eco Eye and Ear to the Ground.
Read more about Padraig Corcoran
Kim and Mirielle McCall
Kim and his wife 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 – which, for the McCalls, makes a walk around the farm ‘a very pleasurable experience, even when things might not be going too well otherwise’.
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 FarmRead more about Kim and Mirielle McCall
Dominic is inspirational in the enthusiasm and passion he has for preserving and cultivating historic varieties of wheat such as emmer, einkorn, and spelt. On his farm in Cornstown in north County Dublin he dedicates part of his land to growing these and other older varieties including ones that produce long straw which is required for thatching. Ireland’s thatched buildings were created from materials that were readily available in the locality.Read more about Dominic Gryson
Edmund Joyce is a drystock farmer from near Borris in Co Carlow. 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. These plantations comprise of a mix of mainly oak, Scot’s pine, common cherry, alder, rowan and birch with an under-storey of hazel and holly. Young elm trees, propagated from some old elms near the farmhouse have also been planted through this plantation with one of the old Elms believed to be the second oldest Elm in the county.
Read more about Edmund Joyce
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 period. Donal is a very eloquent advocate for – and exponent of – farming for nature.Read more about Donal Sheehan
Olly started his 8.5 acre smallholding in August 2012 with his partner Chris and since then have been developing it into an ecologically run self sufficient farm with nature and wildlife in mind. They converted a disused sand arena into an organic vegetable garden, planted an orchard with mainly traditional fruit trees and keep rare breed animals from their small herd of Irish Dexters to a couple of rare breed pigs for the freezer. They have also leased a number of lands in the area.Read more about Olly Nolan
Pádraic Ó Flaithearta
Pádraic’s management is responsible for the conservation of some of the best examples of calcareous grassland in Ireland. Pádraic manages the machair part of his farm to ensure the breeding success of ground nesting birds as well as maintaining species diversity of this special habitat which only occurs on the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland and is at the most southern limit of its distribution on the Aran Islands.Read more about Pádraic Ó Flaithearta
Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin
Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin is a young farmer working on 10 hectares on the Mullet Peninsula. NPWS and Feargal entered an agreement under the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme in March of 2016. The primary objective was 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. NPWS and Michael Martyn Agri-Environment Consultants worked closely with Feargal in 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. This plan however is not a step back in time, rather it is seen as a way forward.Read more about Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin
For many years Tommy has consistently come up with and sought out ideas and ways to protect, promote and enhance the biodiversity, habitats and environmental awareness on the farm, in his local community and the region.
Read more about Tommy Earley
List of 2022 nominees
- Alan Wood
- Andrew Chilton
- Anthony Leneghan
- Aonghus Johnny Choil Mhaidhc Ó Coistealbha
- Ballyglisheen Commonage Community Group
- Blátnaid Gallagher
- Brigid O Connor
- Bruce Thompson
- Cathal and Bronagh O’ Rourke
- Cathal MacMahon
- Charles Carr and Shannon Copeland
- Christina Kelly-O’Brien
- Colm Flynn
- Conor and Sorcha McPhillips
- David Dennison
- David Kerr
- Declan Quinlan
- Diana Pickersgill
- Dinny Galvin
- Eleanor and Richard Murphy
- Gerry Fitzsimons
- Granamore Commonage Group
- Harriet Roach & David Andrews
- Jack Lynch
- James Forrest
- James Gilmartin
- James Ham
- John Commins
- Kevin Wallace (New Leaf Urban CSA)
- Liam Kildea
- Lisa Gifford
- Mariann Klay
- Mark Gillanders
- Mark Harold Barry
- Martin Crowe
- Martin Fitzgerald
- Mary and Liam McDonagh
- Mary Walsh
- Maurice Deasy
- McDonagh Family
- Michael Keegan (Luggala Estate)
- Michael Seymour
- Moira Hart
- Nicky Murphy
- Padraig and Una Fahy
- Pat Mulrooney
- Pat O Brien
- Paul McCormick & Jacinta French
- Philip and Ann Moynagh
- Ragna Gruendler
- Reuben Cope
- Richard & Brid Duff
- Rob Coleman
- Rob O Foghlú
- Sean Condon
- Sean Gilligan and Rob Kennedy
- Shane McAuliffe
- Shane Taaffe
- Thomas Tierney
- Timothy Curran
- Tom Tierney
- William O’Connor
List of 2021 nominees
- Alan Feighery
- Anthony Mooney
- Avril & Willie Allshire
- Batt Sheehan
- Brendan Guinan
- Cat & Kieran Roseblade
- Cathal Mooney
- Colm Flynn
- Colm Gavin
- Dan O Donoghue
- Dermot Doran
- Dominic Gryson
- Eamonn McDonagh
- Eoghan Daltun
- Fergal Anderson & Emanuela Russo
- Fergal Byrne
- Gearoid Maher
- Gerard Deegan
- Graham Harris
- Henry O Donnell
- James Breslin
- Joe & Aoife Reilly
- John Robinson
- Justina & Liam Gavin
- Louis McAuley
- Madeline McKeever & Holly Cairns
- Marc Sagarzazu & Brid og Norrby
- McNally Family
- Michael Kelly
- Michael McManus
- Muller Family
- Nia O Malley
- Nicholas Redmond
- Noel Kiernan
- Norman and Michael Dunne
- Pat McKenna
- Patrick Higgins
- Patrick O Sullivan
- Paul Moore
- PJ Dooley
- Randal Plunkett
- Rena Blake & Lisa Fingleton
- Rod & Julie Calder-Potts
- Simon & Ru Kenny
- Stephen & Eva Hegarty
- Stuart Rogers
- Thomas Stack
List of 2020 nominees
- Andrew Bergin
- Aongus (Chóil Mhaidhc) Ó Coisdealbha
- Bruce Thompson
- Cyril Ó Flaithearta
- Deirdre O’Sullivan and Norman Kenny
- Dermot Page
- Donie Anderson
- Irish Seed Savers Association
- James Breslin
- James Foley
- Jim Cronin
- Joanne Butler
- John Marrinan
- John McHugh
- John Pringle
- Kieran Doona
- Kylie Magner
- Mary Regan
- Michael Costello
- Mimi and Owen Crawford
- Pádraig Moran
- Pat Lalor
- Patrick Frankel
- Patsy Carrucan
- Sinead Moran and Michael McGrath
- Stephen Morrison
- The Shackleton Family
- Thomas Fouhy
- Thomas Keane
- Tom Coffey
- Trevor Harris
- Walter Phelan
List of 2019 nominees
- Aidan Griffin
- Ailbhe Gerrard
- Billy Clancy
- Birtwistle Family
- Boyd Bryce
- Bridget Murphy
- Ciarán Ó Fatharta
- Clive Bright
- Connie O’Connor
- Darina Allen
- Donie Anderson
- Donna Mullen
- Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin
- Gareth Culligan
- Gerard Walshe
- Ian McGrigor and Eileen Carroll
- James Breslin
- James Keane
- Joe and Eileen Condon
- John Marrinan
- Kate Carmody
- Kate Egan
- Killian Forde
- Mark and Alison Hurst
- Mark Armitage
- Mervyn Auchmuty
- Michael Callinan
- Michael Hickey
- Michael Silke
- Moyhill Community Farm
- Olly Nolan
- Ruairí Costello
- Séan Sullivan
- Suzanna Crampton
- Thomas and Claire O Connor
- Tom Moloney
- Tommy Earley
- Vaughan Family