Burrenbeo Trust
Farming For Nature
January & February 2021 Newsletter
Happy New Year to all our readers and welcome to the January-February edition of the Farming for Nature Newsletter. It’s been a bright, cold start to 2021, a welcome respite from the clouds and rain, but the kind of weather that brings its own challenges from icy roads to frozen pipes and water troughs. Here at Farming for Nature we are really looking forward to 2021, to continuing our exciting journey with our terrific ambassadors and to adding some ‘new recruits’ to the network. Pandemic-permitting we have plans for a fascinating series of farm walks this year, but even during the coming weeks of lockdown we have a great line up of virtual events and many new on-line resources to share.
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.
Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards 2021 Now open!
Now in its 4th year, the annual Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards have blossomed into an active network of over 40 wonderful, eloquent Ambassadors who are inspiring many other farmers across Ireland to be more aware of nature on their land. FFN wants to further expand this network in 2021 and we are now seeking nominations of farmers who are going that extra mile for nature. Have a think about any farmers that you know who you feel inspired by, farmers whose stories deserve to be told more widely. Let us know a little bit more about these farmers and their farms and then we will take it from there – at the very least, nominating a farmer for these awards is a great way to show that somebody out there really appreciates their work!

The FFN Ambassador awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and aim to acknowledge and celebrate farmers across Ireland who are doing great things for nature. At FFN we want to share these stories to inspire other farmers as we are convinced that, with the right financial and technical support, our farmers represent a great resource in tacking our biodiversity and climate crises. Farmers can 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. If you wish to nominate or be nominated, please see our FAQs below.
Farmer Q&A session kickstarts again this new year
Clare Farmer and FFN Ambassador Fergal Smith will be our first ‘Ask the Farmer’ speaker on Monday, January 11th next. During the 1-hour Q&A, Fergal will be on-line to tell us a little more about his regenerative farming practices on Moy Hill farm. These ‘live’ Monday evening sessions – of which we have a series of eight planned - will include a short interview with the featured farmer together with some images from the farm, and then an open Q&A session where you can ‘ask the farmer’ about whatever you would like to know, with a focus on practical management advice. It is a great opportunity to learn from our Ambassadors who work with nature every day on their farms, and also to share your own ideas and experience of ‘Farming for Nature’. This will be all done online through Zoom which you can access on your smart phone or computer. These sessions will take place on weekly on Mondays and last up to one hour. All you have to do is register for free on the relevant link below.
Upcoming Q&As:
  • 11th January 2021 Mixed regenerative farming – horticulture, poultry & grazing  with Clare farmer Fergal Smith. Register HERE 
  • 18th January 2021 Beef, sheep & agroforestry with Cavan farmer Jane Shackleton. Register HERE 
  • 25th January 2021 Horticulture, beef and soil fertility with Cork farmer Patrick Frankel. Register HERE 
  • 1st February 2021 Tillage & soil fertility with Kildare farmer Andrew Bergin. Register HERE 
  • 8th February 2021 Organic & biodynamic beef, lamb & veg with Kildare farmer Trevor Harris. Register HERE 
  • 15th February 2021 Running a suckler herd alongside nature with Kildare farmer Stephen Morrison. Register HERE 
  • 22nd February 2021 Crop diversity and no till with Cork farmer Thomas Fouhy. Register HERE 
  • 1st March 2021 Dairy, poultry and pigs – running a mixed stock farm with Tipperary farmer Mimi Crawford. Register HERE 
Meet our Monthly Ambassadors
Thomas Fouhy
(Ambassador January 2021)
Thomas is an organic, no till, stockless, arable farmer with 84 acres in north Co. Cork. Apart from the many trees and hedgerows on his land, he proactively farms all available ground. Nature takes advantage of how well he manages the delicate balance of building and maintaining soil health. Thomas crops on a 10-year flexible rotation that includes speciality crops like grain-lupins, linseed, lentils, sunflowers, as well as the standard grain crops. He has 10 acres of just flowers! He demonstrates the breadth of largely unexplored crops we can produce in Ireland and highlights our potential to produce our own protein crops, reducing our reliance on imported soy. The soil is never bare for long, crops are under-sown with red clover, and diverse winter cover-crop mixes fill the gaps between the cash crops. Many of the cash-crops and the cover-crops are flowering, providing great seasonal diversity for pollinators. Thomas’s farming is truly productive, profitable, and works in sync with nature - a real symbiosis. He is a shining example of how innovative and cutting edge organic arable farming can be. Thomas tells a story of how a hedgehog followed by her prickle of hoglets nonchalantly rambled past him on his farm lane one day - then he knew he must be doing something right! Thomas will be joining us for a free online Q&A on the 22nd February. To find out more about his farming practice and to ask questions in advance or at the event, please register below.
Register for Thomas's online Q&A here
Mimi & Owen Crawford
(Ambassadors Februrary 2021)
Mimi & Owen Crawford operate Crawford Farm, a 28-acre small traditional farm in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary where they farm cattle, poultry and pigs. Their philosophy is to create an economically viable, holistic farm that can provide the best organic, unprocessed foods integrating environmental stewardship with humane animal husbandry to produce healthy soil and pastures is reflected in their agricultural practices. The heart of the farm focuses on the micro-dairy, with pedigree Irish Shorthorn cows dominating the pastures, mainly because they are traditional, hardy and docile. The quality milk produces a varied product range including raw cream, raw butter and raw buttermilk, with all processes completed on-farm. Aside from the dairy aspect, the Cloughjordan-based farm also engages in beef production, striving for 100% grass-raised beef and the aim is to slaughter the animals when they are approximately twenty-four months or older. The Crawford’s are moving towards being completely self-sufficient as they also raise organic broiler chickens that follow behind the cows in the grazing rotation, have organic ducks for slug control, organic pigs to assist them to consume excess skim milk and grow organic vegetables and produce eggs for their own household consumption. Aside from their unique farming practices, they have a strong commitment to nature and the environment. Their traditional working farm incorporates a modern-day approach that works in harmony with nature. Mimi will be joining us for a free online Q&A on the 1st March. To find out more about her farming practice and to ask your questions just register below.
Register for Mimi's online Q&A here
Case Study: The Dung Beetle by Bruce Thompson
There are so many good examples of best practice amongst the nominations that we receive every year for our Farming for Nature Ambassador awards. We want to highlight some of these stories in each newsletter. First up - Bruce Thompson, a conventional dairy farmer near Portlaoise. Bruce is passionate about increasing dung beetles on his farm as that he feels will enhance all aspects of nature on his land. Here is his story, in his own words:

Much is spoken about the benefits animal agriculture bring to ecology, but have you ever wondered what happens grazed herbage after the animal passes it through their digestive system and puts it out on to pasture? Well grab a “stool” and I’ll try explain. These deposits become a micro-habitat for a whole diverse range of small creatures but, for me, the king of these is the indominable dung beetle. Let’s give him a ‘pat’ on the back. We have approximately 60 species of these beetles in Ireland. These beetles move in to these master-pieces of architecture soon after it has been expelled from the animal. They drink the lovely nutrient-rich juices from the pat, dehydrating parasite and fly eggs rendering them immobile. As the pats dry out, they become appealing to earthworms who complete the cycle by digesting these stores of nutrients and mixing them with the topsoil. We also have a number of beetle species who burrow in to the soil, to lay their eggs, bringing the pat down along with them and placing it at the roots of herbage where all kinds of parasites, flies and animal pathogens won’t come in contact with their intended hosts. This burrowing effect not only aerates the soil and plant roots, but also reduces the risk of nutrient run off polluting our waterways.

However, It’s not all good news I’m afraid. Modern farming techniques have depleted a lot of our beetle populations. Practices such as grassland tillage, wet dung pats derived from modern grass management, removing animals from fields in autumn and leaving no food for the beetles until Spring have all attributed to this situation. However, the biggest factor of all is the use of anthelmintics to “control” parasites in animals, these animal remedies are toxic to beetles with plenty of scientific papers written to confirm this. Some species really are “Up the Creek”. Addressing these issues is what the aim has been on our farm. An integrated parasite management plan has to be part of animal management and with resistance to these drugs becoming more common, we need to keep these medicines for the most susceptible stock and used only when we can demonstrate a need.
The real tragedy of losing beetles (and other dung derived insects) is their loss as a food source for the wider animal kingdom. These beetles are a food source for birds, bats, foxes and badgers. The smaller of these creatures being prey for other creatures. We can turn this story around though, more animals (farmed responsibly) mean more dung pats, more dung pats means more beetles, more beetles means more food available for predators.
For more information on farming and dung beetles please go to this recently launched website: www.dungbeetlesforfarmers.co.uk
Join our FFN Forum
This is a forum for farmers to ask questions and share information around farming for nature. It is set up to encourage and support farmers that wish to include nature more in their farming practices. While it is primarily for farmers, we welcome users that are able to contribute from related fields.
Access Forum
New podcasts added all the time
Farmers! Here is a podcast by you, for you! Listen to a wide range of farmers talk about how they farm with nature for a sustainable future. New podcasts uploaded recently include Welsh farmer and founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden, and Clare farmer Fergal Smith.  Please rate and review the podcasts.  Thanks to Ella McSweeney for donating her time in putting these together.
Podcast channel
Other News & Events
  • FFN's Project Manager, Brigid Barry carried out a podcast with the 'Nature's Magic' series on her background with Farming For Nature. To listen to this or other podcasts with Irish conservationists go here.
  • Thanks to MK Burren Photography for sharing with us his stunning photos many of which are included here. Follow Martin on Facebook here.
Your Farm
Best Practice Guidelines & Illustrations
We recently developed the below management guidelines to help give you simple actions on what you can do on your farm to enhance the wildlife. They also include clear illustrations on good, moderate and poor management to help guide you. We hope you find them useful.
Plan For Nature
Diversity of habitats on your farm is a key to a thriving ecosystem.  See here how to plan for nature on your farm
Plan For Nature
Hedgerow management
Diverse hedgerows can provide a wide range of both agricultural and ecological benefits.  Click below to view best practice guidelines.
Hedgerow management
Watercourse management
Well managed rivers and streams on your farm can provide a wide range of agricultural and ecological benefits.  Click below to view best practice guidelines.
Watercourse management
Species-rich grassland management
Preserving and enhancing species-rich grasslands can provide a wide range of agricultural and ecological benefits. Click below to view best practice guidelines.
Species-rich grassland management
Peatland management
Well managed peatlands can provide a wide range of agricultural and ecological benefits. Click below to view best practice guidelines.
Peatland management
Frequently asked questions
We have a series of frequently asked questions about farming for nature and how to do it on your land.  Just click below to get started.  
About Us
Support our Ambassadors
The products and services listed in the below below are a great opportunity for you to engage with, and meaningfully support our Farming For Nature Ambassadors. These are listed under various themes (Food Products, Education, Accommodation and Other) and ordered alphabetically by farmers’ names.
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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