Sharing inspiring stories: Tommy Early’s farm

For many years Tommy has consistently come up with and sought out ideas and ways to protect, promote and enhance the biodiversity, habitats and environmental awareness on the farm, in his local community and the region.

Tommy’s family consists of his school teacher wife Gabrielle and daughters, Elizabeth and Stephaney, both of who are now in college. The farm is organic, a sustainable-stocked suckler herd with enough summer keep and winter fodder, and also several ponies for conservation management. Farming activities are undertaken in the main by Tommy but all tasks are shared by family members when available. Tommy’s daughters, are well conversant in the many farm environmental projects, have taken on and been fully involved in the open days and events from their primary school days.

The family farm is at Mount Allen, where Tommy was reared. It is sited on a drumlin hill, which slopes to Lough Allen, on the western shore in Co. Roscommon. The Arigna River forms the southern border to the farm. The farm’s soils are in the main heavy clay and on the lower grounds, peats. The soils are neutral to acidic and are mostly in pasture and meadow. There are many interesting habitats on the lands; of particular interest and importance is the area of Raised Bog, its mature native woodland edge, the bog lag zone and species rich acidic grasslands. The legally protected butterflies; Marsh Fritillary and Large Heath butterfly breed along the edge of the bog. Also of major interest are the zones of inundation and lakeshore grasslands. Two rare species of flora occur here, both legally protected under the Flora Protection Order. The herb rich grassland hosts a population of Irish Lady’s Tresses Orchid and the seasonally exposed lake mud hosts the rare plant, Mudwort. In winter the lake shore area hosts and provides forage for Whooper Swans and historically Greenland White Fronted Geese. Waders also forage the area, from Curlew, to nearby summer nesting Common Sandpiper.

Tommy has over the years carried out many innovative conservation projects, some through Heritage Council grants, from Bog restoration by drain blocking, rewetting and membrane tanking, management plans for lakeshore orchid habitats grazing and. He has done more for farmland nature conservation than anyone farming in the wider region. Creating new habitats and enhancing existing ones is another activity which Tommy consistently excels. He has instigated many awareness events for Farmers, social farming scheme, school groups and others such as BWI and BSBI. Meetings on such subjects as farming,nature, soil management, the environment, local economy, sustainable farming, hedgerow management, planting and hedge laying, native woodlands establishment and management, county and national moth recording surveys. He regularly hosts Birdwatch Ireland events and has hosted a Marsh Fritillary workshop for NPWS. There are other activities which he has done or continues to do, such as pond creation, bat breeding sites, nest protection works for nearby nesting Curlew etc… and much more,all done quietly, effectively without noise and fanfare but with great wit and humour.
(Nominator: John Matthews, Ranger, NPWS)

For more information on the other nominations go here

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