Farming Nominees are listed on the Farming For Nature website and voting is now open to see who this years ambassadors will be. The short videos (profiling the farmers) make interesting viewing and give a sense of what “farming for nature” means to the farmers involved. In this article we list a few of the farmers and detail a little about what types of farms they run. First up is North Monaghan’s Pat McKenna.
Pat is a farmer in north County Monaghan and has close to 100 Dexter animals. He is in GLAS and uses no chemical fertiliser input on the pasture, only manure/slurry. He planted 10 acres broadleaf forestry 8 years ago. The hedges on farm haven’t been touched in 15 years & are a fantastic wildlife habitat. He markets beef directly to restaurant trade as it is a premium product. In 2020, he took part in Sliabh Beagh uplands conservation grazing trial. The environmental objective was to reduce fire risk in the Sliabh Beagh uplands, Natura 2000 site. The Dexters are suitable animals for this due to small size and hardy nature. They broke up and grazed sward that formed a heavy fuel load and constituted a fire risk. Pat has a deep understand of the importance of low impact grazing. In order to make the farm enterprise profitable, a direct marketing approach for the product is taken. The way the animals are grazed and their breed make for a superior product, but their smaller size make for smaller cuts. This limits the market and makes the beef a higher end product. This is all tied in with his new conservation grazing approach.
Norman Dunne along with his father Michael Dunne, run a 400-acre tillage farm outside Maynooth, Co. Kildare. After moving away from an intensive tillage system a few years ago, these farmers have been focusing on regenerating soil biology and reducing external inputs where possible on the farm. They now operate min-till system, using multi-species cover crops, crop rotations and biodynamic seed preparations. Since the reintroduction of regenerative farming methods on the land, there has been a significant increase in biodiversity and a return of numerous bird species to the farm
Cathal Mooney of Heather Hill Farm is a regenerative farmer located in Donegal. He takes a holistic approach to farming, focusing on ecological, social and economic goals. Heather Hill Farm produce pasture raised turkey, pasture raised chicken, pasture raised eggs, wildflower honey and grass-fed lamb. Cathal runs a Holistic Planned Grazing System for the stock and has implemented a silvopasture system on the land where fruit trees, nut trees and berry bushes have been planted throughout the grassland.
Noel Kiernan farms 250 acres of mixed land and habitat in Longford – there is forestry, marsh, bogland, pasture and hay meadows. A naturalist his entire life, Noel is passionate about conservation in all forms – from native flora and fauna, to native Irish livestock breeds. Noel is a forester as well as a farmer and he is passionate about combining forestry and farming, as he believes these practices can be mutually beneficial when managed sustainably. There is 100 acres of native broadleaf forestry on the land.
Anthony Mooney from county Kildare runs a 200-acre beef farm with the help of his wife Mary Rose and son Conor. He runs a herd of between 100-120 cross-bred continental cattle. Anthony is passionate about biodiversity and nature conservation and this is reflected in his low-input farming system. Ponds, meadows, woodland and hedgerows are all important habitats on the farm.
Gerard Deegan is a lifelong farmer from Co. Westmeath. Originally a dairy farmer, Gerard transitioned to a mixed beef and forestry enterprise back in 2012. There is now 100 acres of forestry on the land – 50% hardwood and 50% softwood. An advocate for diverse forestry systems, Gerard has planted approximately 60 different species of trees on the farm. He also runs a small suckler herd producing organic beef. Gerard is involved in Social Farming and a member of Leitrim Organic Farmers Coop since 1990.
Nia O Malley farms 60 hectares in the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Co. Galway where she manages a small herd of Galloway cattle. Farming in a Hen Harrier Special Protected Area, Nia joined the Hen Harrier Programme in 2018 where she was involved in a mountain grazing project. The trial focused on increasing cattle grazing on areas of bog/heath that are dominated by Molinia grasses and pose serious fire risks. Nia has incorporated a silvopasture system to the farm to create shelter, provide habitat and improve soil structure on the land.
For more on these farmers and lots more, go to www.farmingfornature.ie The project appreciates all the publicity it can get. Please share this link and encourage others to vote as a gesture of support for these wonderful farmers who work at the coalface of addressing our climate and biodiversity crises.