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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 (ISS) have made a major contribution to the protection and enhancement of nature on farms, gardens and generally throughout Ireland for almost 20 years. ISS 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 native seeds and plants in particular potatoes and apples trees.Read more about Irish Seed Savers Association
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 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 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
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.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. She bought the farm with her partner, Tom, just a couple of years ago and is a good example of which can be achieved both in terms of habitat building and yield production in a short amount of time. Kate’s products include vegetables, fruits, geese, ducks, and hens are sold at a local market, helping to reduce food miles and support the local economy. She is a building up a farm that is climate resilient and incorporate wildlife into all parts of the farm. “Our first priority is offering a sanctuary, providing an oasis for wildlife”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.
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 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 a true ambassador for farming for nature in the Burren. As someone who lives and breathes farming for conservation, he powerfully describes his environmentally friendly style of farming as being a ‘lifestyle choice’.
He also independently organises group meet ups for farmers in the locality, giving farmers a chance to come together and discuss their concerns and share their ideas about all things farming. John enthusiastically shares his knowledge of traditional farming in the Burren with visitors to his farm in the heart of the Burren and the work that he has done through the Burren Porogramme.
John is a keen event expert for the Burren Conservation Volunteers (BCV’s) and has spent numerous days working in the Burren training the BCV’s in dry stone walling. He is an excellent host ensuring that the walling events end on a high note with tea and coffee in his cottage. As an active volunteer with Burrenbeo, John also hosts Burrenbeo’s monthly educational walks in the Burren, ensuring all those who show up can safely enjoy their walk.
In his own words; he ‘just wants to leave the place a little better than he found it’.Read more about John Marrinan
The Allen Family 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’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
The Moyhill CSA project (Fergal, Matt, Mitch and Sally) 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 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 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’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 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