The National Farming For Nature initiative, proudly supported by Ireland’s National Rural Network, have recently announced their first cohort of eight wonderful Farming for Nature Ambassadors for 2020. They are now encouraging members of the public to view a series of specially-commissioned short films which provide an insight to these farmers and their inspiring work.
Now in its third year, Farming For Nature (FFN, www.farmingfornature.ie) was set up with an aim to source, share and celebrate the stories of farmers across Ireland who manage their land in a way that sustains nature, while providing a livelihood for their family. Nominations are sought annually from a broad panel of environmental experts and through a rigorous system of interviews, farm visits and assessments by a panel of judges, 16 of these farmers were selected as Ambassadors in 2020. Dr Shane Conway, Researcher in the Discipline of Geography’s Rural Studies Unit at NUI Galway and with the National Rural Network is on the judging panel for this initiative. This year’s ambassadors come from right across Ireland and include beef, sheep, horticulture and tillage farmers who manage a wide range of very valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.
Dr. Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme, a volunteer with FFN, said that ‘as people will see when they look at the short films, these ambassadors are really inspirational. Their deep knowledge and passion shines through, providing powerful testimony as to how farming and nature can, and must, work in harmony. We hope that these stories – which also demonstrate that simple actions can make a big difference for the wellbeing of nature and of people – will inspire other farmers to take some small steps to look after their farm’s wildlife. As a society we must recognise that these farmers are deserving of our respect and support: they embody all that’s great about rural Ireland and they offer great hope for practical solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises that we face.
Project co-ordinator Brigid Barry added that ‘We are delighted to have Farming for Nature Ambassadors this year from Kildare to Clare, Cavan to Cork, from organic to conventional, from beef to sheep, tillage to mixed farming systems. We would really encourage the public to view their stories to get a flavour of what farming for nature is all about, and also to vote for their favourite ‘story’ – they can do so by simply visiting www.farmingfornature.ie and choosing the story that resonates most with them. I think every farmer in Ireland will be able to relate to at least one of these stories and learn a little something – we also hope to organise educational walks on these farms in 2021.
The 8 ambassadors will be featured at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend (www.burrenwinterage.com) in October (an online event this year) when the winner of the public vote will also be announced. Eight additional ambassadors will be announced and profiled, one per month, over the coming months, joining 28 others from 2018 and 2019. The Farming for Nature Awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by a wide range of farming and conservation interests including the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Rural Network. The deadline for 2020 voting is midnight Friday October 23rd 2020.