Farming for Nature 2019: ‘Inspirational role models’ sought for nominations

The national farming for nature awards, sponsored by Origin Green, are now in their second year and are open for nominations. The aim of the awards is to source and share stories of farmers across Ireland who are judged to be managing their land and livestock in a way that really benefits nature in their area.

By celebrating these ‘farming for nature ambassadors’ it is hoped to inform and inspire other farmers, and people in general, to follow suit and do what they can for nature.

The awards were developed in 2018 by a group of heritage enthusiasts based in the west of Ireland. Dr. Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme is one of them.

“Farming is under a lot of pressure right now and, unfortunately, so is nature. We believe that, with properly targeted funding and good technical support, farmers can do an awful lot to help our threatened habitats and species, and benefit themselves as a result. We know this from the Burren.

“But as part of this urgently required ‘new deal’ for farmers and nature, it’s ever so important to have inspirational role models and teachers who can lead other farmers, and inform the broader public, about ‘farming for nature’.

“We are really grateful to Bord Bia for helping us to identify, celebrate and support such ‘farming for nature ambassadors’ across Ireland.”

He described the 2018 award winners as ‘amazing’ and ‘inspirational’. “I would urge everyone to check out their videos on our website: www.farmingfornature.ie. We want to expand this network in 2019.”

Opportune timing

Another member of the organising group, Dr. James Moran of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), noted the opportune timing of the awards.

“The Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] is increasingly recognising farmers as more than food producers and aims to incentivise enhancement of the countryside.

“Recent initiatives around Ireland including EU LIFE projects; results-based payments for biodiversity and DAFM European innovation partnerships have highlighted the real appetite there is for farming for nature. Many farmers are going that extra mile for nature and this is an opportunity to celebrate their achievements on a national scale,” he said.

Like-minded

Kim McCall, a farming for nature ambassador from 2018, underlined the importance of the awards for the farmers involved. “It is great to be able to meet all these people who think the same way as we do.

Very often, as a farmer, you work in isolation, especially if you do something a bit different from the norm. It gives a great boost to know there are a lot more farmers who do the same thing in their own corner and to feel supported in your ideas.

Describing the farming for nature awards process, project co-ordinator Brigid Barry explained the nominations and selection process. “Farmers will be nominated by a panel of over 200 heritage specialists across Ireland and then shortlisted based on agreed criteria.

“We are hoping to hear about farmers who do great things for nature, who farm in a manner that is agriculturally, economically and socially progressive, and who are willing to share their story with others.

“Short videos of up to 10 shortlisted farmers will then be made and the public will have their chance to see these videos online and vote for their favourite one.”

The Farming for Nature 2019 awards is sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests.

These include: the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the National Parks and Wildlife Service; the National Rural Network; The National Biodiversity Data Centre; The Heritage Council; the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); and Teagasc.

The closing date for nominations is May 12.