Kim and Mirielle McCall
FARMING FOR NATURE AMBASSADOR 2018
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’.
The McCalls farm is made of 75 hectares of permanent pasture and 12 ha of commercial forestry (broadleaves and conifers). They keep 75 pedigree suckler cows and followers (in average 150 cattle at any one time) and 60 ewes and followers (approx. 80 sheep). The farm has been part of REPS and AEOS and is in Bord Bia-Origin Green. It is managed in an environmentally friendly way with no artificial fertilizers purchased and no pesticides used, the preferred approach being a careful and balanced management. It has previously won 2 All-Ireland awards: 1989 ICI-Farmers Journal Farming Conservation Awards; 1999 RDS-Bank Of Ireland Profitable Farming And Conservation Awards; also Award winner for Leinster of REPS 2000 ; Runner up of RDS National Forestry Awards in 2011. It featured on Ear-To-The-Ground in the late 90s and in December 2016 (carbon footprint). As full-time farmers they depend on the farm for their livelihood, so it is run efficiently, but it is also run responsibly with its natural flora and fauna taken into account in the management. The McCalls have been engaging with the National Biodiversity Data Centre for a number of years and regularly submit data from their farm. They have also been very generous in providing advice from the farmers perspective to all our ongoing schemes and work programs. While a productive farm, it is also an oasis for wildlife in the area thanks to their efforts in biodiversity-friendly management. It has kept the best of the past while still moving into the present. In many ways, it is what I imagine farms used to be like before agricultural intensification over the last 40 years.
(Nominator: Una Fitzpatrick, Senior Ecologist, National Biodiversity Data Centre)