The Calvey Family from Keel, Co.Mayo are the inaugural winners of the National Farming for Nature Award 2018. This award was announced at a special event on the 27th October with MEP Mairead McGuinness in Kinvara, Galway as part of the 2018 Burren Winterage School. Over the past four weeks members of the public, and in particular the farming community, were asked to vote for one of six shortlisted farmers as their top pick for the prestigious Farming for Nature award, part of a wider independent initiative (www.farmingfornature.ie) which hopes to source, share and celebrate the stories of those farmers across Ireland who are doing great things for nature on their land and in their community.
The winners, the Calvey Family have farmed on Achill Island for seven generations. They farm a herd of 150 Black-faced Mountain Sheep on their shareholding of an extensive (20,000 acre) commonage, as well as on an area of machair (a rare seaside habitat). These ‘Mayo blackhead ewes’ have been kept on this farm for many generations and are perfectly adapted to grazing the mosaic of protected habitats – from mountain to seashore – where they play a key role in maintaining local biodiversity. Martin is also a master butcher and he and his family have, since 1962, run the only abattoir on Achill island. The Calveys sell their trade-marked ‘Achill Mountain Lamb’ from their local shop as a high-quality food product, one which has won numerous awards and is the choice of many top-chefs through the west of Ireland, including Ashford Castle. Martin is a champion of good environmental management – a member of the local ‘custodians of the commonage’ group who helps ensure the land is properly cared for, as well as a great advocate for the link between habitat management, local food production and the added ecosystem and financial value that can result. As his daughter Martina says ‘We respect nature, we work with it and it rewards us very well’.
One of the Award organisers, Brendan Dunford, said that ‘This year’s finalists represent such a rich and varied cross section of all that’s great about Irish farming: hard working farmers who love their land and their livestock and who really care for their natural environment. We can all learn something from these inspiring people and we should all be really grateful for what they do. I’m delighted for the Calveys and how they have managed, as a family, to bring a taste of Achill to food lovers all across Ireland, testament to their entrepreneurship and hard work’
Project Coordinator, Brigid Barry said that ‘We are thrilled with how the process came together for this first year. The shortlist was compiled from an initial longlist of farmers which was nominated by over 150 environmental professionals. There was incredible buy-in from the public to support these shortlisted 6 farmers with nearly 4000 votes coming in over the last month. Each one of the six farmers has incredible farms in a such different landscapes and with diverse habitats, they are all doing fantastic things for nature and are keen to share their stories so that other farmers are inspired to improve their land as well. Each one of them are winners as these positive stories will hopefully create positive change. We look forward to see what 2019 brings as there are many more inspiring stories to share out there’.
An Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Rural Network, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Irish Farmers Association, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Teagasc, the Irish Farmer’s Journal and the Heritage Council..