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.”
I have known Colm for decades and at different stages of our farming careers we have nudged, cajoled, coaxed and assisted each other through thick and thin. However it is only since my own awakening to nature's role in farming that I have appreciated what a force of nature he himself is. Colm farms mostly crops oustide Athy with some grass rotated to refresh ground. His soils range from fairly light, through good stiff ground and into some peat at the edge of the Bog of Allen. The farm has been in the Flynn family for for quite a while and Colm farmed it with his brother Ciaran until the latter's untimely death. Colm's knowledge of the movements, habits and especially the songs of birds is extraordinary and his involvement in the Farmland Pollinator EIP has opened up whole new areas for him to explore. His boundless curiosity and patient observation leads him to make connections that escape most of us. His involvement in the Danu EIP has prompted a reappraisal of his lifelong farming practises in the context of a highly productive arable farm. As well as the EIP's Colm is involved with many local organisations including historical and vintage societies and probably lots more that I don't know about. For many years he was a key figure in Kildare Leader and has been active at national level in both Macra na Feirme and IFA. He is a regular contributor to the Wild Kildare Whatsapp chat where he presents a very positive image of farmers' engagement with nature. As much as anything, this activity convinces me that Colm can make a valuable contribution to Farming for Nature. His genuine joy in the natural world is infectious and his enthusiasm for communication knows few limits.
Nominator: Andrew Bergin, FFN Ambassador