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.”
Mary and Liam farm a small herd of horned Kerry cattle which are outwintered. 26 acres of the farm was purchased in the 1980s salvage it from complete abandonment. The rest was bought a few years ago out of fear that it was destined for sitka spruce plantation. They manage the land in a manner very sensitive to farm biodiversity. The farm is certified organic, in GLAS and they are working with the NPWS to improve diversity in the hilly area through minimal targeted grazing. There is a plan to do up a traditional farm building with help from the Heritage Council to have as optional shelter for the cattle. They have a few hives of native bees and are very interested in the plant diversity of the farm. Mary has enrolled on a course in plant identification to help catalogue the flora. The pair take pleasure in the traditional manner they farm and all the wildlife on the holding.
Nominator: Hiúdaí Croker, Farm Planner, Leitrim Organic Farmers' Co-op