Farming for Nature

March & April 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to the March & April 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 some words of wisdom from our farmers!

As March and April approach and, for many farmers, calving time begins in earnest, we are all hoping for a respite from the series of storms which February has brought. With soils saturated and fields flooded across the country, it’s interesting to look at what role farming for nature can play in adapting to the impact of these weather extremes. One good example is from Pontbren in Wales (see here) where it was shown that by strategically planting shelter belts of trees across upland slopes, surface run-off was reduced by allowing it to soak more quickly into the soil. Inside the woodland area on one farm, water soaked into the soil 60 times quicker than in grassland pastures 10m away. Reduced surface run-off results in less topsoil and nutrients being lost during heavy periods of rain. This also means that less sediment is washed into nearby water courses. Managing water flows is one of the many ‘Ecosystem services’ which nature can provide if managed appropriately, a great example of how ‘farming for nature’ can help us address some of society’s growing environmental challenges.

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 health and well being 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.

2020 Farming for Nature Ambassador Awards close this month

Do you know of any farmer or farm family who you feel would make a great Ambassador for Farming for Nature? Well, this is your opportunity to get a nomination in and let those farmers know that you really do appreciate their work. The Farming for Nature Awards 2020 nomination process is closing at the end of this month. We are looking for nominations of farmers and farm families who are doing great things for nature on their land while farming in an economically and socially progressive way. Farmers who are proud of what they do and why they do it, and who are happy to share their story with others. We will be contacting our network of ecologists, rangers, heritage officers and others to nominate their farming heroes. Please see our award FAQs section to find out who can nominate and how. And the link to the nomination form.

FFN Upcoming Farm Walk

Please note that these walks are not suitable for children or dogs.

Farming For Nature Walk with Ailbhe Gerrard – Saturday 25th April 2pm to 5pm

The Farm Walks are an opportunity for the Farming For Nature farmers to showcase their contribution to nature and good farming practices on their land.

Ailbhe runs a 30 hectare farm on the banks of Lough Derg. She bought the land in 2010 and took on the challenge of turning a neglected farm into a diverse farm system to make a living. Today one third of the farm is broadleaf (3 acres of which is designated), one third is arable and one third is agri-environment under wild bird cover. She has an organic sheep flock and honey bees which she sells both directly from the farm and online. Ailbhe shares her passion of farming with others with regular open days and demonstration days, and her farm is an official Teagasc demo farm. She is a Nuffield Agricultural Scholar and lectures at Gurteen Agricultural College. Ailbhe was made an Honorary FFN Ambassador in December 2019.  Further information and booking. 

Honorary Ambassadors

In order to sustain the momentum of building up our network of Farming For Nature Ambassadors across Ireland, each month we are announcing an honorary ambassador, based on nominations we received and assessed in 2018 & 2019. 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.

Olly Nolan – Ambassador March 2020

Olly started his 8.5 acre farm in 2012 and since then has been developing it into a self-sufficient farm with nature and wildlife in mind. He has planted over a thousand native trees. He has converted a disused sand arena into an organic vegetable garden, planted an orchard with mainly traditional fruit trees and keeps a small herd of Irish Dexters and a couple of rare breed pigs. Although not organically certified, the farm is run organically, recycling everything and producing its own compost and mulches. Olly keeps a large number of beehives around Dublin/ Wicklow mountains, helping to pollinate the heather on Wicklow Mountains National Park. His ‘honey house’ is completely powered by solar panels. He harvests rain water from all the buildings to use in the veg garden and water the animals so as not to take too much ground water from the well. He makes his own hay or silage and never cuts before July to allow nesting birds a chance to rear their young.  View a 5-min film on Olly and his farm here. 

Donna Mullen – Ambassador April 2020

Donna and her husband brought this 43-acre farm twenty years ago. It initially comprised of three large fields of intensive grassland with little plant or animal diversity. Through their work and dedication, it has been transformed into a nature reserve. They have planted 7 ½ acres of bird seed crop – oats, linseed and kale. There are now twenty-two species of birds on the farm, including species new to the farm: buzzards, mallard ducks, jays, woodcock and grasshopper warblers. 15 acres of woodland was added to increase species diversity. Two orchards of heritage Irish apple trees were planted as was an acre of wildflower meadow for pollinators. Over the last six years 1km of hedgerow has been planted. Hedgehogs were reintroduced last year and pine martens were recorded on the farm for the first time last year. A lake was created to encourage newts. Over 50 bat boxes are located on the farm. What Donna and her family are doing on their farm is easily replicable, providing diverse habitats to encourage diverse species. Listen to a short podcast with Donna here. 

Other News & Events

  • Wild Mind Festival in Fenet, Co.Kerry will include a panel of Farming For Nature farmers discussing the work they do to enhance nature on their farms. 24th-26th April. More information here.
  • Burren in Bloom with the Burrenbeo Trust will feature a weekend of walks and talks including a movie night to show some of our amazing Farming For Nature films.  Unfortunately the event has been postponed but hoping to run Burren in Bloom this year at a later date than advertised but please note this is also not a certainty. Keep an eye on the website here.
  • Countrywide featured Farming For Nature Ambassador, Gerard Walshe’s farm on their programme on the 15th February, at 34 mins in, describing how he farms for nature.  Listen to it here.
  • Do you have any farming and nature images that you would like to share with us?  We are always looking to build up our bank of images to help spread the message.  If there are any you have that you are happy to share please forward to 

Your Farm

Due to regular requests from farmers across Ireland, we 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!

About Us

Farming for Nature is an independent, not-for-profit initiative which aims to support High Nature Value (HNV) farming in Ireland.  It was established in 2018.

Much of the impetus for Farming for Nature has come from our experience of working with farmers in the Burren region, western Ireland. This convinced us, if given the right financial incentives, technical support and encouragement, of the enthusiasm of many farmers to look after their heritage (the pocket, head and heart as we say). During this time we also witnessed the power of ‘partnership’ in achieving what are, ultimately, common goals: indeed we are delighted to welcome many of these partners, agricultural and environmental, in supporting this initiative.

The Farming For Nature project  started with a national award.  The main purpose of this award was to unearth and to share the stories of farmers across Ireland who are making a positive difference to nature on their farms and in their communities. We want to show that farmers are a part of nature and not apart from it, and we want to use these positive testimonies to encourage others to follow suit. We want to show that farming for nature can also be agriculturally, economically and socially progressive.

Of course storytelling alone won’t solve all of our challenges.   So we are currently looking at developing our resources, our outreach and expanding our network.  We hope to use the website and other media to promote and share some of the exciting emerging initiatives and technical innovations taking place in Ireland today, for example our locally-led ‘European Innovation Partnerships’ and our ‘Results-based’ Agri-environmental programmes.

We hope you can join us on this journey.

Please visit the website to find out more about The Team and Current Ambassadors and Useful Resources

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. Click here to get the list of products and services available from our Farming For Nature Ambassadors. And make sure you tell them we sent you!

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

Farming for Nature c/0 Burrenbeo Trust, Glebe House, Glebe Road, Kinvara, Co. Galway.