I have never visited a farm with such vitality - on pulling up a stem of oats, the roots were coated by a thin rhizosheath and strands of fungal hyphae, I thought, "this soil is so alive". Tom is an organic, min-till, stockless, arable farmer - those are adjectives that generally do not sit together and can only be achieved successfully with a deep understanding of soil and plants.
The "nature" part of most farms often comes from wild areas or extensively farmed areas, however, apart from the many trees and hedgerows, Tom proactively farms all available ground. Nature comes to take advantage of how well he manages the delicate balance of building and maintaining soil health.
Tom crops on a 10-year flexible rotation that includes, speciality crops like grain-lupins, linseed, lentils, sunflowers, as well as the standard grain crops. He demonstrates the breadth of largely unexplored crops we can produce in Ireland and highlights our potential to produce our own protein crops, reducing our reliance on imported soy. The soil is never bare for long, crops are undersown with red clover, and diverse winter cover-crop mixes fill the gaps between the cash crops. Many of the cash-crops and the cover-crops are flowering, providing great seasonal diversity for pollinators.
Drone footage of Tom's farm would be breathtaking - fields with three or four crops - a sea of blue lupins, flanked by sunflowers, surrounded by oats or a cover-crop on the headlands. Tom playful tells a story of how a nonchalant hedgehog followed by her prickle of hoglets rambled pasted him on his farm lane one day, he said, then he knew he must be doing something right!
I think what is special about Tom's farming is that it is truly productive, profitable, and working in synch with nature. I am a big believer that farming for nature should not be philanthropy, but a symbiosis. He is a shining example of how innovative and cutting edge organic arable farming is.
Nominator: Clive Bright, Farming For Nature Ambassador 2019/PR and Development Officer for Organic Trust