The Calvey Family from Keel has become the inaugural winners of the National Farming for Nature Award 2018.
The award was announced at a special event last week attended by MEP Mairead McGuinness in Kinvara, Galway, as part of the 2018 Burren Winterage School.
Over the past number of weeks members of the public and in particular, the farming community, were asked to vote for one of six shortlisted farmers as their top pick for the prestigious Farming for Nature award, part of a wider initiative (www.farmingfornature.ie ) to source, share and celebrate the stories of farmers across Ireland who are doing great things for nature on their land and in their community.
The winners, the Calvey Family, have farmed on Achill Island for seven generations. They farm a herd of 150 Black-faced Mountain Sheep on their shareholding of an extensive (20,000 acre ) commonage, as well as on an area of machair (a rare seaside habitat ). These Mayo blackhead ewes have been kept on this farm for many generations and are perfectly adapted to grazing the mosaic of protected habitats – from mountain to seashore – where they play a key role in maintaining local biodiversity.
Martin Calvey is also a master butcher and he and his family have, since 1962, run the only abattoir on Achill island. The Calveys sell their trade-marked Achill Mountain Lamb from their local shop as a high-quality food product, one which has won numerous awards and is the choice of many top-chefs throughout the west of Ireland.
A member of the local ‘custodians of the commonage’ group, Martin Calvey is a champion of good environmental management, who helps ensure the land is properly cared for. He is also a great advocate for the link between habitat management, local food production and the added ecosystem and financial value that can result.
The national Farming for Nature Award 2018 was sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests, including the Depatment of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Rural Network, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Irish Farmers Association, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Teagasc, The Irish Farmer’s Journal and the Heritage Council.