Mayo dairy farmers, Sinéad Moran and Mick McGrath of Gleannbui farm, have been chosen as Farming for Nature Ambassadors for 2020.
Sinéad and Mick, who farm together, are one of eight Farming for Nature Ambassadors chosen for 2020. Now in its third year, Farming For Nature (FFN,www.farmingfornature.ie ) was set up with an aim to source, share and celebrate the stories of farmers across Ireland who manage their land in a way that sustains nature, while providing a livelihood for their family.
This year’s ambassadors come from right across Ireland and include beef, sheep, horticulture and tillage farmers who manage a wide range of very valuable habitats, including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.
The public are invited to vote for their favourite ambassador by visiting www.farmingfornature.ie You can learn more about each ambassador by viewing a specially-commissioned short film which provide an insight into these farmers and their inspiring work.
Sinéad and Mick own a micro-dairy with a herd of traditional breed cows on 40-acres of high nature value farmland in Co Mayo, where they sell raw organic milk direct to customer.
They are passionate about conserving the species-rich grass, mature trees and both retaining and enhancing biodiversity that is found on their farm. The land has been in Mick's family for years and was never farmed intensively. The land has an old orchard, an old cottage, granary and mature trees dominate all but a few boundaries.
This landscape relies on grazing animals and they manage it in a way that both conserves and preserves the land’s biodiversity through holistic grazing while still producing nutrient-rich food for direct sale to the local community.
Describing the butter they produce, Sinéad explained: "Our rich yellow butter is down to both the traditional breeds we use but also the diversity they eat. If anyone wants to do something to farm better for nature, then definitely include more diversity both in the animals and what they eat."
Dr Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme, a volunteer with FFN, said that: "As people will see when they look at the short films, these ambassadors are really inspirational.
"Their deep knowledge and passion shines through, providing powerful testimony as to how farming and nature can, and must, work in harmony.
"We hope that these stories – which also demonstrate that simple actions can make a big difference for the wellbeing of nature and of people - will 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."
The eight ambassadors will be featured at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend (www.burrenwinterage.com ) in October (an online event this year ) when the winner of the public vote will also be announced. Eight additional ambassadors will be announced and profiled, one per month, over the coming months, joining 28 others from 2018 and 2019.
The Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network. The deadline for 2020 voting is midnight Friday October 23 2020.