Tommy is an organic farmer, farming 100ac on the shore of Lough Allen. I first met Tommy over ten years ago when I worked for the Irish Peatland Conservation Council and carried out a survey of the small but beautiful intact raised bog on his farm and wrote a conservation management plan for the site. I was so impressed with Tommy’s vision for his farm, his knowledge and passion for the natural environment and his desire to share the rare species and habitats on his farm with visitors. I have recently moved to Leitrim and am delighted to see that Tommy continues to be an inspiration in regards to managing a working farm for nature conservation and for continuing to share this special place with others. Important habitats and species on Tommy’s farm include intact raised bog with rare lag zone, mature native woodland, species rich acidic grassland, Marsh Fritillary Butterfly, Large Heath Butterfly, Irish Lady’s Tresses Orchid and Mudwort.
Nominator: Sarah Malone, Heritage Officer, Leitrim County Council
Tommy Earley continues to work quietly, solidly and unstintingly in the promotion, creation and conservation of wildlife habitats and initiatives both on the home farm and in his wider community of Roscommon and Leitrim. Tommy farms organically and sustainably a suckler herd, with sufficient summer grazing and winter keep of silage or hay meadows when he can get it. Several ponies are kept for habitat management. Tommy is quite unique in his forward vision and concerns for on-farm nature conservation and sustainable farming. He has been undertaking this work since before I first met with him 19 years ago while he was attending a REPS and wildlife presentation. His farm hosts several rare and declining species of flora and fauna, including Marsh Fritillary Butterfly, Irish Lady’s Tresses Orchid, breeding and wintering wildfowl and waders including Curlew.
Tommy’s work has included the following;
Whole community public information meetings on sustainable tourism for the Lough Allen region.
Social Farming in which he hosts weekly farming and conservation workshops which are generating great results in participants self awareness, self empowerment and self esteem .
Seeking and securing Community/Social environmental funding for wildlife conservation in the area and on Lough Allen, works such as funding for floatingTern nesting habitats Rafts on the Lough.
As an Organic Farmer, promoting, hosting and attending Knowledge Transfer on-farm meetings and events throughout the year. Lets face it, none of us were born knowing what we know about farming and wildlife. We acquire it in many ways, by experience, observations, seeking out and sharing.
Wetland habitat creation. In the knowledge that worldwide, wetland habitat loss is one of the greatest negative impacts on nature, Tommy has been creating new and restoring wetlands on his farm, having installed one pond and wetgrassland for local Curlew pairs in 2018 and again a new pond and wetland in spring of 2019.
Raised Bog Project. Tommy continues to enhance and restore the wonderful raised bog on his farm both in the practical and scientific form.
School visits. Facilitating and promoting farming and wildlife learning and experience for both Primary and Secondary schools, including revamping one part of his property as a lecture room.
Influencer of local attitude to wildlife and farming. Tommy’s efforts to promote sustainable farmland and wildlife conservation has achieved many positive results. Tommy’s brother Pious, who farms lands along the shores of Lough Allen is informed and practically engaged in habitat restoration and enhancement, particulary for the locally breeding Curlew and on-farm biodiversity.
Sense of Humour. Tommy undertakes all his conservation works and ideas with positive good cheer, consistent optimism and kept buoyant on a wickedly sharp sense of good humour.
(Please read the above in conjunction with my 2018 nomination outlining Tommy and his family’s work for farming and wildlife conservation
Nominator: John Matthews, Conservation Ranger, NPWS
Mount Allen Farm offers visitors a unique opportunity to gain access to a part of the country that has been virtually undisturbed on the shores of Lough Allen. They offer a number of walks, with the option of focusing on local ecology, biodiversity, local history or farm management/maintenance itself, all personally guided and explained. They also offer a number of workshops including Moth Trapping, Conducting Butterfly Transect, Hedge Coppicing, Composting, and many more. The farm has a high heritage value because of its variety of habitats which include Lowland Raised-bog; semi-improved grassland; wildflower meadow; lake shore; woodland; river.
Nominator: Miriam Crowley, Ranger, NPWS
Tommy Earley has been farming organically since 1996, just outside of Drumshanbo in Co. Leitrim. Tommy has prioritised conservation of the natural habitats on the farm and local areas. The 100acre farm is located on the banks of Lough Allen, and while the topography is typical of the area and is generally marginal land, he has developed a number of habitats on the farm that allow biodiversity to flourish. He has Aberdeen Angus suckler cows, 25acres of forestry and additional natural woodlands, beehives, 2 large ponds, 25acres of raised bog and a horticulture development he calls “Meitheal allotments”. The Arigna river borders the farm and brings with it a host of wildlife such as otters who use Tommy’s farm as a playground moving from the river to the ponds and back again. Tommy has been interested in conservation for many years and when he converted to organic farming with the Irish Organic Association he had the desire to “ensure that the land remained as it was so that when people look back in 100 years the natural habitats and land quality will have been maintained”. Tommy has recently laid down some pathways around the farm to facilitate the number of visitors, which ranges from schoolchildren to scientists with expertise in plant and animal conservation. “One of the great findings we have had on the farm over the last few years is an elusive rare orchid called Irish Lady Tresses, which is a small orchid with cream coloured flowers that occurs in damp meadows in Ireland, Canada and parts of the outer Scottish Hebrides. It exists in 4 or 5 places in Ireland so we are very lucky to have it here, it flowers in August and it takes up to 8 years to flower. In total we have about 80 on the farm in an area that floods naturally close to Lough Allen, as part of its life cycle it needs the ground to be flooded and grazed conservatively which is what we are doing in that area” said Tommy. The bog is also a biodiversity feature on the farm, unlike other farmers Tommy does not drain the bog and instead has slowed the flow of water from the bog in order to allow it to retain its natural features. The bog cotton was in full flower when we visited in early May. The rare Irish butterfly the Marsh Fritillary has also been located on Tommy’s farm, and he previously took part in the National Butterfly Survey. Tommy also hosts a large range of moths which live in the variety of habitats available to them. “This land has never been farmed intensively as it is marginal land, in light of that we decided to farm in a manner that would enhance the eco-systems on the farm" said Tommy.
Nominator: Grace Maher, Irish Organic Association