New award for farmers doing extra for nature

Who are the farmers who manage their land and livestock in a way that benefits nature?

New award for farmers doing extra for nature

By Stephen Cadogan

Who are the farmers who manage their land and livestock in a way that benefits nature? The search starts now for the winners of the national Farming for Nature Award, a competition sponsored by Bord Bia, and supported by the Department of Agriculture, the National Rural Network, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the IFA, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Teagasc, and the Heritage Council.

It is the brainchild of a group of heritage enthusiasts in the west of Ireland, including Dr Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme, who says farmers in Co Clare’s Burren have been inspired by neighbours whose pioneering work in land management for nature was recognised.

“We are convinced that with the appropriate, targeted financial and technical support, most farmers are actually very enthusiastic about farming for nature.

“The idea of this initiative is to provide a little wellspring of inspiration for these farmers and to shape a more positive narrative around farming and nature,” says Dr Dunford.

Philomena Hynes is a farmer in the Burren in Co Clare and is a keen advocate, and exponent, of farming practices that support the high nature value of her farm.

Philomena Hynes is a farmer in the Burren in Co Clare and is a keen advocate, and exponent, of farming practices that support the high nature value of her farm.

Another member of the organising group, Dr James Moran of GMIT, says: “Many farmers are going that extra mile for nature and this is an opportunity to celebrate their achievements on a national scale.”

Who can make a nomination?

Over 100 recognised professionals in farmland biodiversity will be invited to nominate a farmer.

How do I nominate a farmer for the award?

If you are contacted and invited to make a nomination, you can either (by August 10) fill in the online application form, or email it to info@farmingfornature.ie or send it by post, 2018, to Farming for Nature, Burrenbeo Trust, Glebe House, Kinvara, Co Galway.

Please ask for the farmer’s permission before making a nomination.

Contact info@farmingfornature.ie if you aren’t on our nominators list, but would like to be.

If there is someone you feel should be nominated, you could suggest to your local NPWS ranger or Heritage Officer that this person deserves to be nominated, if not this year, then in future years. It is free to enter and to be involved in these awards.

Who is to be nominated?

The awards are for farmers who:

- Have made a significant contribution to protection or enhancement of nature on their farm and/or in their locality.

- Are farming in a manner agriculturally, economically and socially progressive.

- Have shared their passion with others (through walks, local media etc).

- Have a record of engagement with other stakeholders.

- Are Origin Green members through participation in the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) or the Sustainable Beef & Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS)

What happens once the nomination has been submitted?

The farmer will be contacted by the team and assessed. A short description of the farm with photos will be put up online. Their farm advisor will also be contacted. The selection process will shortlist 10 farms to be visited by a judging panel. These will be further shortlisted to five, and a short film created on each. There will then be an online voting system for the awards based on these shortlisted farms, so the public can view the films, and get voting. The results will be announced on October 27, 2018, as part of the Burren Winterage School.

Who will be on the Judging panel?

Included will be individuals from the environmental, agricultural and community sector.

What is the Award?

There will be cash prizes for winners and runners-up. Five shortlisted farmers will be hosted at the awards ceremony, and they will become Bord Bia Farming for Nature Ambassadors.

Who has funded this initiative?

Most of the work is done on a voluntary basis. However, we are very grateful to our key sponsor, Bord Bia. The National Rural Network have also contributed a small fund.

Who is ‘behind’ this?

It is simply a genuine attempt by a few people to try to encourage a more positive working relationship between our farming systems and the natural environment on which they depend.

Why are you doing 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 doing a great job farming for nature, about the positive stories, we don’t have many good role models.

This negative narrative can alienate farmers from nature, making them feel apart from it rather than part of it.

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. This can hopefully be the start.

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