Stephen Morrison farms just 20 km from the Red Cow Interchange on the M7 and he can be in the Phoenix Park in 20 minutes yet his farm is an oasis for Flora and Fauna in the midst of all this. Stephen, his wife Heidi and their four children live on the 120 Ha family farm at Hartwell, outside Kill, Co Kildare and are the 3rd generation of the family to farm there.
Stephen is a full time farmer with an 80 cow suckler herd, taking all progeny to finish. He also has a tillage and forestry enterprise in place. Yet, despite the farm being busy and productive, Stephen has ensured that he farms in a balanced way and that he has no negative impact on the wildlife that live and breed on these lands. He has added to the biodiversity of the farm and continues to do so in a planned manner. He has fenced off the watercourses on the farm and allowed riparian margins to develop along these areas. He has dug out a network of ponds in an area of fen to provide a habitat of any aquatic species that may colonise this special area. 18 acres of Native Woodlands has been established alongside a 2 acre plot that is in Wildbird Cover for the past three years. Additionally, a Wildbird Project Area has been planted with bushes and trees specifically chosen for their potential to provide nuts and seeds for birds located alongside the Hartwell Stream that flows through the farm. The Wooded Glen planted by Stephen himself 20 years ago is now a haven for wildlife just as the Dipper nesting box installed by his father 40 years ago under the stream bridge is still well used each year. 250m of whitethorn hedge sown in 2018 is progressing well as are the 23,000 planted whips in the Native Woodland last year.
The most recent addition has been a Forest Garden planted last winter – the acre plot is full of bushes and trees but each one of the 150 plants will produce fruit, nuts or seeds for eating by the family (while providing protection and food for some feathered friends as well!) Even the old stone sheds in the yard have been out to use - a large Owl Box on the loft window is being watched by both Stephen and Bird Watch Ireland who call regularly to the farm to check in.
Birdwatch Ireland are not the only group to have access to Hartwell Farm. “Wild Kildare” have had public walks on the farm and are carrying out their Moth Survey on the lands. Microsoft have become Partners in the Native Forestry Establishment – some days there were up to 80 Microsoft employees on the farm, preparing and sowing trees. The farm has been used by Teagasc as a Benchmark farm with their 3rd level Certificate in Farming Classes and Bord Bia have brought a number of International Delegations to Hartwell to show them the best Ireland’s farmers have to offer. When you look at the pictures its easy to see why…
Nominator: Fiona Doolan, ASSAP Advisor, Teagasc