The Farming for Nature (FFN) project has welcomed a new farmer, Graham Harris from Kildare, to its ambassador network.

Harris took over his family’s farm in 2003 and farmed it conventionally for five years, before beginning to move away from an intensive system to more regenerative practices in 2008.

Since then, Harris has increased his focus on “removing as many harmful practices from his farming system as possible”.

His 170ac farm which is now certified organic, is a mixed sheep and tillage enterprise. Cereals produced include organic oats as well as pea and barley combi-crops for animal feed. Harris also makes use of cover crops on his land between rotations which feed pollinators and encourage biodiversity.

Soil microbiology is a big focus for Harris, who outlined that soil regeneration has the power to run a very productive sheep and tillage farm. He said:

“I firmly believe if I can get the soil right, then I don’t have to worry about much else.”

Other practices Harris has adopted include incorporating herbal leys into grassland to build soil biology, spreading composted farmyard manure as fertiliser and encouraging patches of plants to grow around field boundaries to serve as nature corridors.

Farming for Nature network

Harris is now one of 23 ambassadors in the FFN network which includes beef, sheep, dairy, forestry, horticultural and tillage farmers across Ireland who manage their farms sustainably.

The network organises a number of yearly farm walks where ambassadors can demonstrate the sustainability measures they have taken on their farms to protect nature.

Ambassador Michael Hickey who runs a 100ac farm split between tillage, cattle and horses, will host a farm walk this Saturday (May 28) in Co. Tipperary at 11am. At the event, Hickey will showcase how he has designated 30% of his land to natural habitats such as flooded grasslands and fen areas.

Another walk will take place on Sunday (May 28), in Co. Kildare at Andrew Bergin’s 420ac tillage farm.

Bergin has been practicing no-till cereals, sowing cover crops and integrated crop management for a number of years. He also maintains pollinator strips of 6-10 metres around his crops which are planted with a variety of trees to provide bird cover.

There are more than 25 farm walks scheduled between now and the end of October which anyone is welcome to attend. Tickets to the walks are €10 and can be purchased on the Farming for Nature website.