Farming For Nature September & October 2020 Newsletter

/, High Nature Value farming, News/Farming For Nature September & October 2020 Newsletter

Farming For Nature September & October 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to the September-October edition of the Farming for Nature Newsletter.  This bimonthly publication contains news and upcoming events, offers helpful nature-friendly tips for your farm, and shares useful resources, including words of wisdom from our farmers!

As we enter the Autumn and the old feast of ‘Samhain’ – signifying the end of the harvest season – hopefully most farmers out there have the crops and fodder saved and can take a breather to reflect on the farming year, strange one that it was.  Nature too is at a time of transition, the summer flowers giving way to a nutritious harvest of berries and nuts, the foodstore for our wildlife over the winter months ahead.  Here at FFN we are celebrating our own ‘harvest’ of sorts as all the work of our nominators, judges and volunteers over the past six months comes to fruition in the form of sixteen wonderful Ambassadors, eight of whom we are profiling over the coming months in a focussed effort to share their positive and inspirational stories.  You can really help us in this quest by sharing the Ambassador’s short films with your network so that as many people as possible can gain a better insight into farming for nature, and by voting for your favourite film as a show of support for the work of these farmers.

The Farming for Nature initiative was established to help acknowledge and support those farmers who farm, or wish to farm, in a way that improves the natural health of our countryside.  It was set up by people with a genuine interest in the wellbeing of our rural landscapes, many of whom work on a voluntary basis to build up this network and profile the good practices that are happening across the country.  There are ways in which we can all get involved in this initiative, so please read on and see what you can do.

Farming For Nature Short Video


Farming For Nature Ambassador Public Vote is now open

We are delighted to announce its first cohort of eight wonderful Farming for Nature Ambassadors for 2020 and are encouraging members of the public to view a series of short films which provide an insight to these farmers and their inspiring work.   See who we have below and click on their link to view their story.

Andrew Bergin

Andrew Bergin farms 320 acres of tillage in Co. Kildare.  He has been practising ‘no-till’ cereal production for a good number of years, while managing the soil to ensure high levels of biological benefits.

View his video here

John McHugh

John McHugh has a 230-acre organic dairy farm in Co. Laois. John moved away from being an intensive dairy farmer when he realised that he needed to create a more sustainable and resilient enterprise.

View his video here

Michael McGrath & Sinéad Moran

Sinéad Moran & Michael McGrath farm a micro-dairy with a herd of traditional breed cows on 40 acres of high nature value farmland in Co. Mayo and sell their raw organic milk directly to the customer.

View their video here

Thomas Keane

Thomas Keane farms in Connemara, Co. Galway where he keeps 160 mountain ewes on a mosaic of high nature value peatlands and wet grasslands.  He is an active member of the Pearl Mussel Project.

View his video here

Jim Cronin

Jim Cronin has a 16-acre organic market garden farm in Co. Clare where he has been applying biological agriculture principles and traditional farming practices to create a viable market farm.

View his video here

The Shackleton Family

The Shackleton family farm 320 acres in Co. Cavan and have been providing organic grass-fed beef and lamb to their customers since 1996 on a holding which also contains extensive areas of forestry.

View their video here

Stephen Morrison

Stephen Morrison manages a 300 acre family farm near Kill, Co. Kildare.  Stephen has an 80-cow suckler herd, taking all progeny to finish.  He is not organic but is transitioning toward a low-input system.

View his video here

Trevor Harris

Trevor Harris runs two farms in Co. Kildare – his home farm, 140-acres, which rears cattle and sheep (certified as both organic and biodynamic) plus 14 acres of horticultural land on another farm.

View his video here

Thank you to all our walk leaders

We would just like to thank all our ‘Farming for Nature’ walk leaders for their generous time in imparting their knowledge and ideas throughout the year.  While many of our walks had to be cancelled during lockdown times, we still managed to hold 12 walks, hosted by seven different Ambassadors, with over 240 fellow farmers and interested parties in attendance.   For those lucky enough to attend the walks, they were privileged to get a unique insight to some remarkable farms and the farming systems that shape them.    From horticulture to cattle, sheep and even dairy production, there was so much to see and share and so many good people to meet.   Every one of the host farmers did an exceptional job and their great communication skills made it a highly enjoyable and educational outing.   This on-site, peer to peer learning is key in building up knowledge and sharing ideas for other interested parties looking to make changes on their land.   While we still have another two walks in the pipeline, our 2020 walk series will then finish up for Autumn/Winter period but will hopefully resume next Spring with lots more to share in 2021!   So thank you to our host farmers and thank you to all those who attended.

Our September Ambassador

Meet the last of our Ambassadors from the 2019 nominations.   Pádraic Ó Flaithearta is our Ambassador for September 2020.   He runs a small suckler farm on Inis Mór, Co. Galway.  The farm is predominantly composed of orchid-rich calcareous grasslands and machair, two priority habitats under the EU Habitats Directive, as a result 51.78ha of his 55ha holding is designated as a Special Area of Conservation.  Pádraic’s management is responsible for the conservation of some of the best examples of calcareous grassland in Ireland.  The machair is home to a significant number of breeding lapwings as well as three species of terns, plover, wheatear and skylarks – Pádraic managed his grazing regime to minimise disturbance he also actively monitors the populations of these bird species as well as the negative influences such as predation by hooded crows and overgrazing by rabbits.  Pádraic manages the species-rich grassland to maximise species diversity addressing the many negative influences that can reduce species diversity, this includes active scrub control, targeted grazing and minimising nutrient input.  More information and a short film on Pádraic’s farm below.

More information and short video

Meet our current network of Ambassadors

Above is our current network of Farming For Nature Ambassadors.  Numbering 28 in total, these include farmers from right across Ireland who manage beef, sheep, horticulture and tillage systems while also sustaining a wide range of very valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.  Each of these individuals have been chosen in acknowledgement of their long-standing commitment and contribution to farming for nature on their land and in their community.  If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, please view their videos or listen to their podcasts by clicking on the link below – their deep knowledge and passion shines through, providing powerful testimony as to how farming and nature can, and must, work in harmony.  These stories – which also demonstrate that simple actions can make a big difference for the wellbeing of nature and of people – will hopefully inspire other farmers to take some small steps to look after their farm’s wildlife.  As a society we must recognise that these farmers are deserving of our respect and support: they embody all that’s great about rural Ireland and they offer great hope for practical solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises that we face.  So well done and thank you for being part of our network and we look forward to working with you more in the coming years.

This year we have chosen a further 16 ambassadors to join this network.  These include the 8 farmers featured above plus 8 other wonderful farmers who we will be spotlighting on a monthly basis over the Winter and Spring months ahead.

More information on our current Ambassador network

Latest podcast

If you haven’t heard our most recent podcast – featuring Sligo farmer, Bridget Murphy – click on the link below.  Bridget is an 9th generation farmer with 125 acres on the Ox Mountains.   She farms sheep, horses, trees and native Irish bees.

All our podcasts have been produced and edited by the wonderful Ella McSweeney on a voluntary basis for the project.  Thank you to her and all our ambassadors for their time in delivering these.  Don’t forget to subscribe to us on all the main podcast channels, then rate and review these podcasts

Burren Winterage Weekend

This year, the Burren Winterage School (21st -25th October 2020) goes virtual, with speakers from far and wide contributing to a series of on-line presentations and discussions on themes relating to farming for nature and how farming can make a more positive contribution to addressing our global biodiversity crisis.   Featuring speakers from all over the world – including farmers, scientists and policy makers – this event is a great opportunity to explore how we can collectively shape a brighter future for our natural world and the farm families who depend on it to make a living.

On the Saturday evening (Oct. 24th) Winterage Weekend activities will focus on the 2020 National Farming For Nature Awards.   As this will be virtual, it will be a chance for you to meet each of the eight ambassadors (above) and find out ‘live’ who is the winner of the Farming For Nature Public Vote award 2020, sponsored by Bord Bia.  

Programme & Booking Burren Winterage School 

Other News & Events

  • Biofarm 2020 is being held on the 9th-13th November 2020.   Each day of the conference will have a specific theme centred around Biological / Regenerative Farming, and will feature a mix of Irish and international farming experts.  More information here.
  • A massive thank you to Johnny Whyte of Seanchas Productions for his superb work in producing all the Farming For Nature Ambassador videos.
  • A further massive thank you to our in-house photographer Martin Kiely from MK Burren Photography for keeping us in good quality images.

Your Farm

Due to regular requests from farmers across Ireland, we (our farmers and scientists who have so kindly volunteered their time and knowledge) have put together various sections on the website to help guide you, the farmer, to find ways to improve nature on your farm.  If you have any additional ideas you would like us to include and share, please let us know, all ideas and support are most welcome!

Where to start

FAQs on including nature on the farm

About Us

Ambassadors’ Products & Services

Looking for ways to support those farmers who support nature on their farms?  How about getting an organic leg of lamb sent straight to the door, a fillet of beef 100% grazed outdoors in butterfly-rich grassland, honey from bees that are getting their nectar from wild bird cover, vegetables that have been carefully grown from local seed, get a farm tour for your school, or stay and/or volunteer on an organic farm (when we can do these things).   Click on the below link to get the list of products and services available from our Farming For Nature Ambassadors.   And make sure you tell them we sent you!

Products & Services

Share with us any comments, queries, stories or points of interest by emailing us on