This bimonthly publication contains useful information about news and upcoming events, offers helpful nature-friendly tips for your farm, and shares useful resources, including some words of wisdom from our farmers!
Burrenbeo Trust
Farming For Nature
May & June 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to the May - June 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 words of wisdom from our farmers!
As Summer 2020 officially begins, the fields are repopulated with livestock released from their winter housing, the Spring-planted crops are showing and the first cuts of silage are already underway. Our efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 have been so traumatic for so many, but has also allowed those of us with access to open spaces to enjoy what has been a sublime Spring with nature at her very best in terms of birdsong, butterflies, bees and flowering plants. The past couple of months has reminded many people of the power and beauty of the natural world that surrounds them, but also of the vital importance of our farmers at a time of such great uncertainty. Our future depends on these farmers – many of whom are struggling to survive financially – producing nutritious local food in harmony with nature and being properly rewarded and respected for it.

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 wellbeing 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.
The Farming for Nature Ambassador Awards are in full swing
We have been busy this past month interviewing all of the 2020 nominees for our prestigious national Farming for Nature Ambassador Awards. Each one of these farmers has an inspiring story to tell - how and why they farm for nature - and we are grateful for the work of these unsung heroes. From beef to horticulture, sheep to poultry, Christmas trees to dairy, this year’s nominees represent a wide range of farming systems, land types and personal stories from 18 different counties. Each one of these farmers has taken the time to share with us what they do on their farm to enhance habitats and attract more species, while endeavouring to remain economically viable. Most of these farmers see their work as part of an ongoing journey to do their best for nature, for their farm and for their family; all of them feel they have more to learn and more to do - hopefully, being part of the Farming for Nature network will help inspire them in their work! We would like to take this opportunity to thank each of these farmers for sharing their stories with us. If you are interested in reading their nominations please click on the button below.

So what happens next? In ‘normal times’ we compile a shortlist from our initial interviews, then ask our judges to visit these farms. Following this we compile our list of Ambassadors and select some of these to make a short film which we use for our ‘public vote’ in late summer. With Covid 19 restrictions, some of this will not possible and we will have to adapt. We will keep you posted through social media as we continue with the process. Meanwhile, we wanted to share with you some of our favourite quotes from our interviews.
"I have 33 different songbirds on my farm - three times more than the average conventional farm. Growing crops, I don't have a problem with pests, they are there but I don't have a problem with them, as they are a food source for the birds"

"I don't believe in cutting hedges, it improves the diversity of the field and makes the crops healthier. The more diversity in the hedge, the less problems in the middle of the a crop. Its where the workforce live. Extra nutrition for the cows too"

"There is opportunity in these hard times, to look at what is local and allow the community to benefit from that. To get rid of the beef barons & find ways for the local farmer to provide produce for the local community"

“Do know that you could farm for nature and keep good yields. That herbal leys and pollinator strips don’t effect it but actually increase the yield. Whilst I have cut out chemicals, my profits may not have increased or decreased but the financial risk has disappeared which is a massive relief”.

"Hillfarming is crucial, it is better meat as they eat so diverse and it is better for the landscape as it is being grazed. But when a farmer is only getting €40 p/animal, top class meat and top class biodiversity are being abandoned for the easier lowlands"
"When a nonchalant hedgehog followed by her prickle of hoglets rambled past me on the farm lane one day, I knew I must be doing something right!"

"Since cutting out insecticides, planting more diverse swards, increased seed banks, I have seen return of ground nesting birds. In one field [16ha] I counted c.100 skylarks, 12 snipes and 2 lapwings. They have food & cover!"
The national Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards is supported by Bord Bia 
Wild Wednesday Webinars
Farming For Nature, in conjunction with our good friends in the Burrenbeo Trust, are coordinating a series of webinars on the theme of farming, nature and heritage every Wednesday between 8pm and 9pm. These online lectures have a different guest speaker each week with the opportunity to ask questions from the 'audience'. Please find below further information as well as a poster on the details of webinars that will be taking place in May. Webinars are free to attend but registration is essential using the links provided.

6th May: Managing healthy habitats for livestock with Clive Bright.
Register at  Clive raises 100% grass-fed organic beef on his 120-acre farm in Ballymote, Co.Sligo, which he sells directly to the consumer. He uses mob-grazing to ensure that grasslands are given time to recover and sees silvopasture as the answer to real resilience on his farm. Clive is a 2019 Farming for Nature Ambassador.

13th May: Geology in the Burren with Colin Bunce.
Register at – What were the geological forces that created the unique landscape of the Burren? What do the rocks of the Burren tell us about how they were formed and what has happened to them since. Colin is the head of field studies at the Burren outdoor education centre. He is an avid caver and has found several new cave systems in the Burren.
20th May: Making nature a priority in our farm business with Kate Egan.
Register at – Kate runs a 9-acre chemical-free farm dedicated to biodiversity and permaculture in Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. Kate’s products include mainly annual vegetables, fruit and hen eggs, which are sold at a nearby market, helping to reduce food miles and support the local economy. Kate is a 2019 Farming for Nature Ambassador.

27th May: The Burren in the Bronze Age - archaeological discoveries from Glencurran Cave and Moneen Cave with Marion Dowd.
Register at – Offerings of human bones, amber beads from the Baltic, pottery and seashells of Bronze Age date were discovered in Glencurran Cave and Moneen Cave indicating that these dark spaces were of scared significance. This talk will explore some of the possible reasons behind such rituals, at a time when the Burren was transforming into the karst landscape we know today. Dr Marion Dowd is a Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at IT Sligo with a strong interest in the interplay between folklore and archaeology.
A recording of the three webinars that already took place in April are available for viewing on Burrenbeo's YouTube channel by clicking on the buttons below.
Farm Walks
Unfortunately we have had to cancel our upcoming farm walks.  We hope that we will be able to resume these later in the summer but we will keep you posted. 
New Book on Results Based Payment Schemes
While most Agri-Environment Schemes pay farmers to undertake one of a number of ‘options’ to improve their farm environment, a different approach has been piloted in places such as the Burren, Sligo-Leitrim and the Shannon Callows, as well as, more recently to protect the Hen Harrier and the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. Dairy farmers along the Bride River in Cork receive such payments for the condition of the habitats on their land. These are referred to as ‘Result-Based payment schemes’ rewarding farmers who achieve agreed environmental outcomes (as well as providing funding to do conservation-support works). The advantage to the farmer is more freedom to farm and to innovate, as well as a better incentive to deliver. ‘Farming for Nature: the role of results-based payments’ is a new publication which collates several Irish experiences of developing and applying results-based approaches for the conservation of farmland biodiversity. This book is intended for an international audience of practitioners, policymakers and academics interested in results-based approaches for the conservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. The book is available to download as a pdf here: Farming for Nature: the Role of Results-Based Payments.
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 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.  
Feargal Ó Cuinneagáin - Ambassador May 2020
Feargal has 25 acres on the Mullet Peninsula where his primary objective is to return Corncrakes to the farm, while also boosting wider biodiversity including Twite (another ‘red-list’ bird), Chough, Barnacle Geese, pollinators, and habitats in their own right like a species-rich fen. Working on a farm plan with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Feargal is designing and implementing a series of measures to convert what was a rather lifeless monoculture of grass to a tapestry full of colour, sights and sounds as would have been commonplace throughout the Irish countryside in previous generations. Feargal has not only created a haven for important habitats and species, but is also trialling new and innovative measures in managing for wildlife on productive agricultural land. Since Feargal began farming for nature here, there has been a remarkable increase in the rare and threatened wildlife on his farm. Twite arrived in 2017, with at least 26 twite feeding on a plot designed for the bird, plus this has linked into national studies, whereby they were ringed and hopefully this will provide information on their dispersal. There were no Corncrake present originally, but by the summer of 2018 there were six calling males. In the winter, barnacle geese graze on the farm. The air is filled with the sound of skylarks in the summer. A family of chough have started to nest in a neighbouring derelict building, after Feargal installed a nest box. He has also managed the hay meadow, specifically by focussing on red clover, as well as planting phacelia and kale, resulting in a benefit to the threatened great yellow bumble bee.
Podcast to come shortly
Darina Allen - Ambassador June 2020
Darina has a mixed stock organic farm with her husband. The farm includes one acre wide glasshouses which yield an abundance of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, and is home to free-range pigs, beef, approximately 600 hens and dairy cows which are milked daily to produce local cheese and yoghurt. Vegetable crops with a whole range of native Irish organic produce is grown is on a quarter acre site. The patch is also often used to test experimental planting and sowing techniques such as biodynamic planting - sowing crops in harmony with the various phases of the moon – with the aim of optimising yield, flavour and quality. Darina is totally passionate about the soil and believes the healthier the soil, the healthier the plant, the animals and the humans. Another biodiversity friendly technique incorporated is the use of green manure - the incorporation of certain green plants back into the soil, which improves the soil structure; increases soil biodiversity, helps to prevent soil erosion and helps to reduce pests and diseases affecting plants & vegetables. It is a circular economy with zero waste. The core philosophy of the farm is sustainable food production whilst also building up wildflower meadows, recording insects, swift boxes and house martens, not cutting hedgerows and planting edible hedgerows for wildlife and shelter. They make every effort to not only minimise impact on the environment but to enhance it where possible. Core to Darina’s work is sharing ideas on food sustainability with others through a permanent on-site cookery school and a number of other courses.
Podcast to come shortly
Other News & Events
  • Farm Habitat Management Guidelines is a new booklet put together by The Bride Farming With Nature Project in Cork.  For handy tips on what you can do you your farm view it here. If you want to receive it in hard copy you can send a SAE to the project.  
  • Farmers Wildlife Calender: Climate Tracker is an initiative by the NBDC on reporting the first time each year that you observe some of nature’s seasonal events on your farm. See get involved go here
  • Newsletter for Farming Kids on Farmland Pollinators is a new pamplet put together to keep your busy bees at home entertained. Produced by the Protecting Farmland Pollinators EIP you can download their first one here. 
  • Bumblebees of Ireland is a fantastic visual poster put together by the NBDC on these superb pollinators in your fields.  Download here
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!
Field Boundaries
Quick tips
Quick Tips
Quick tips
Quick tips
Quick Tips
Quick tips
About Us
Ambassadors' Products & Services
Looking for ways to support those farmers who support nature on their farms? How about how about getting an organic leg of lamb sent to 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 (when we can do these things). Click on the below link to get the list of products and services available from our Farming For Nature Ambassadors. And make sure your tell them we sent you!
Products & Services
Farming For Nature
c/o Burrenbeo Trust 
Glebe House
Glebe Road
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This newsletter has been produced with support from the
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service
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