Donal Sheehan

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.

Nomination Description

Donal Sheehan is a 70-cow dairy farmer based near Castlelyons in Co. Cork. While Donal runs what would at first be considered a ‘typical’ intensive farm, he has a keen interest in creating a more sustainable way of farming. He 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 (and project leader) in an innovative new pilot project called The BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration In a Dairying Environment) Project. The project has just recently started and will run until the end of 2022. The name ties in with the Bride river which flows from Glenville to Tallow (where it then flows into the Blackwater). The project covers the entire catchment area of the river, including the villages of Castlelyons, Rathcormac and Conna. Farmers in the scheme are rewarded for delivering measurable improvements in biodiversity over a 5 year period.

That a dairy farmer took it upon himself to learn about all of this, to apply for funding, to get others on board, and to be the project manager is hugely impressive. I strongly believe that if we are to influence the farming community as a whole in Ireland, in terms of valuing biodiversity and of moving towards workable and sustainable solutions, it needs huge farmer involvement and buy-in. Donal is a leader in this field. As well as showing the way (by example) to other farmers, he and the project are heavily involved in engaging with and educating the next generation, with walks, talks and events for all nine schools in the project area being a core part of the project. I’ve included some photos which show local children on a field trip.

I find his work inspirational, and I feel he would be a hugely deserving winner of the 'Farming for Nature' award.

You can find more info on the project, very often featuring Donal’s own farm, here: http://www.thebrideproject.ie/, and on Twitter (@bride_project; @DonalSheehan4) or Facebook (search for @TheBrideProject).

(Nominator: Dr Maria Long, Independent Ecologist)

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