Recognition for farmers managing their land and livestock in a way that benefits nature

May 12 is the deadline for nominations to find Ireland’s Farming For Nature ambassadors for 2019.

The national Farming for Nature Award recognises farmers managing their land and livestock in a way that really benefits nature.

The award was developed in 2018 by heritage enthusiasts based in the west of Ireland.

One of them, Dr Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme, said farming is under pressure but so is nature.

“We believe that, with properly targeted funding and good technical support, farmers can do an awful lot to help our threatened habitats and species, and benefit themselves as a result. We know this from the Burren.”

He said it’s important to have inspirational role models and teachers who can lead other farmers. “The awardees from 2018 are an amazing and inspirational group of people, and we want to expand this network in 2019.

The awards are sponsored by Bord Bia and supported by many organisations, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Rural Network, The National Biodiversity Data Centre, the Irish Farmers Association, and Teagasc.

Who can make a nomination?

Over 200 accredited professionals in farmland biodiversity are invited to nominate a farmer worthy of recognition for supporting nature.

For others who would like to be included in the nominators' list, info@farmingfornature.ie is the contact email address.

How do I nominate a farmer for the award?

Nominations for 2019 opened March 12 and close on May 12.

If you are contacted and invited to make a nomination, you can either fill in the online application form at www.farmingfornature.ie or download an application and send it to info@farmingfornature.ie or by post to Farming for Nature, Burrenbeo Trust, Glebe House, Kinvara, Co Galway.

Before you nominate, ask the farmer for permission to nominate them, and let them know that they can expect a follow-up chat with one of the Farming for Nature team.

Or if there is someone you feel that should be nominated, you could suggest to your local NPWS ranger or Heritage Officer that this person deserves to be nominated.

It is free to enter and to be involved in the awards.

Who is to be nominated?

The awards are for farmers who:

  • Have made a significant contribution to the protection or enhancement of nature on their farm and/or in their locality.
  • Are farming in a manner that is agriculturally, economically and socially progressive.
  • Have shared their passion with others (through walks, local media, etc).
  • Have a record of engagement with other stakeholders.
  • Were not shortlisted in previous years. See the list on the www.farmingfornature.ie website.

Nominations can be for individual farmers or, even better, farm families.

It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your respect and admiration for this farmer, to share his/her inspiring story with others, and perhaps encourage other farmers to adopt nature-friendly activities on their land.

What happens once the nomination has been submitted?

Once the nomination is received, the farmer will be contacted. Then a short description of the farm, with photos, will be put up online, with the farmer’s permission.

The nominator may also be contacted.

The farmer may be asked to suggest a farm advisor or someone that could be contacted for further information.

All nominations will be reviewed and assessed in line with the listed criteria, and a shortlist of at least 10 farms will be compiled.

Judging panel members will visit the shortlisted farms and decide which farms best embody the ‘farming for nature’ principles and would be good ambassadors. The judges will put forward their top five for an online voting system, so the public can vote for their overall favourite.

Each Ambassador will be presented with an award as part of the Burren Winterage School on Sustainable Farming, during the October bank holiday weekend, and the winner of the public vote will be announced.

Who will be on the judging panel?

The assessment panel includes individuals from the environmental, agricultural and community sector, reflecting the importance of economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable farming (details on www.farmingfornature.ie).

What is the award?

All Farming for Nature Ambassadors will be invited to the awards ceremony (including dinner, B&B) and will be presented with a beautiful stone plaque and a small cash prize. The winner of the public vote will receive an additional cash prize.

A short film will be commissioned on all Farming for Nature Ambassador’ farms, which farmers can use as they wish.

Who has funded this initiative?

Most of the work for this initiative is being done on a voluntary basis. However, the Farming for Nature team is very grateful to the key sponsor of the awards, Bord Bia’s Origin Green Programme, and to the National Rural Network for their support.

Why do this?

There is widespread awareness of the environmental damage that can be caused by the wrong type of farming. There isn’t as much discussion of those that are doing a great job farming for nature.

This negative narrative can alienate farmers from nature.

Encouraging farmers to feel that they are part of the solution, not just the problem, is the first step in a long journey which will require a lot of financial and technical support, new partnerships and new visions.

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