Tom Keane farms in the Dawros catchment in Connemara. He farms 160 mountain ewes on a mosaic of high nature value peatlands and wet grasslands and is a participant of the Pearl Mussel Project EIP. The Pearl Mussel Project rewards farmers for the ecological quality of their land, which in turn contributes to the pristine water quality needed by the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. Tom’s system of farming has maintained and enhanced large areas of active Atlantic blanket bog, achieving a score of 10/10 on the Pearl mussel peatland score card for much of it. This is an excellent example of perfectly intact peatland which is farmed in a manner to benefit both the stock and the land.
Tom came back from England in 1983 to farm with his father. Tom is very passionate about where he farms, he feels one of the best things about farming in this area is the wild nature of the area, “It’s not the easiest place to farm, but I love the area”.
Tom is a pilot farmer for the Pearl Mussel Project. His farm was used to develop and trial the Pearl Mussel Project prior to roll-out across 8 catchments along the western seaboard and Tom has been very generous with his time and knowledge to help develop the project to work in local areas like his. When he was a child, both pearl mussel and fish stocks in the catchment were plentiful and Tom is passionate about looking at ways to encourage the natural habitat of these areas to flourish again.
Tom used to feed meal, but he found it was just too costly. He feels the key to getting the best from his farm is “getting the land to work for you”. He ensures his stock are rotated regularly and works with nature to get the best from his land. When asked what he feels the future of farming is for areas like Connemara, Tom said that Connemara has a very special environment and more locally led initiatives like the Pearl Mussel Programme working with farmers will help to preserve the area for future generations and for visitors to the area. Tom is an excellent example of what can be achieved by working with the natural landscape of the area to get the best for both environment and the stock. Tom isn’t a headline conservationist with the latest buzz words in ecology. He is a farmer with a strong understanding of the crucial importance of his land management to the environment. He notices and knows nature, as he does farming. He is a champion for nature, he leads by example. He farms with, and for, nature.
Nominator: Mary McAndrew, Catchment Officer, Pearl Mussel Project