Plan to give Irish farmers more say in managing biodiversity and climate change

A national initiative focuses on the positive role farmers can have in conserving nature on their land.

Farming for nature is a new initiative the emphasises the positive role farmers can have in protecting nature on their land. The plans intend to share practical insights via a combination of short films, podcasts, webinars and farmland walks. The aim is that this will provide a stronger voice in discussions related to how action can be taken at the farm level to manage biodiversity and the climate crisis in Ireland.

Farming for Nature explains that a large drive for their work comes from their direct experience of working with farmers in the Burren region of Clare. The project began with a focus on exploring and sharing stories of farmers who have positively contributed to nature on their farms and in the surrounding community.

Farming for nature is focused on showing that farmers are part of nature and not apart from it and highlighting the positive stories to encourage others to follow a similar path. The group also intends to show that farming for nature can be agriculturally, economically and socially progressive.

Now in its fourth year, the plan has expanded to an active network of 40 ambassadors across Ireland. The group is inspiring other farmers in Ireland to implement simple measures to protect nature on their land. In their mission statement Farming for Nature explains that there are significant details on the environmental damage that is potentially caused by the incorrect type of farming.

There is a lot of narratives that highlight the negativity in farming, but little discussion of the benefits of farming for nature, the positive stories and role models in the industry. This negative information can isolate farmers from nature and result in them feeling more distanced rather than a part of it.

Farming for Nature explains that one of the first steps in this journey is encouraging farmers to feel they are part of the solution, not the problem. This entails a combination of financial and technical support, new partnerships and targets.

With support from the Bord Bia Origin Green programme, Farming for Nature gained 48 new ambassador nominations this year for farmers that are showing active action for nature. Each nominee will partake in a detailed interview and judging process to deliver a shortlist of ambassadors for this year.

Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme director Deirdre Ryan explains that the initiative highlights the power of partnership and the positive of knowledge sharing within Irish farming. The knowledge and experience of FFN ambassadors and openness to share their insights with other farming members is a valuable asset to the farming industry, according to Ryan.

One founding member of the FFN, Brendan Dunford explains that hearing farmers love nature and their efforts to ensure it has a place on their farms is very inspiring and shows what farmers are doing to protect nature in Ireland. During the year, ambassadors participate in the Ask the Farmer series, discussing their farming system.

One recent case study explores a small organic trust certified mixed enterprise farm in Tipperary. The combination of local demand and want to produce their food was the inspiration for the farm business. The goal is to operate an economically viable, holistic farm, incorporating a modern-day approach to farming that works in harmony with nature. The farm owners explain that Ireland has the opportunity to generate a good clean food system and they want to be part of this movement and support others in understanding the opportunities available in farming and nature.

Farming for Nature has also released a list of farm walks planned for later this year. The walks provide an opportunity for host farmers to highlight their contribution to nature and positive practices on their land. Visitors will have the change to view the habitats and species, as well as the livestock, crops and discuss how to manage land and support surrounding nature. The revenue generated from the walks will be funnelled back into the farming community.

The walks are intended to be an interactive knowledge exchange between people with a genuine interest in farming and nature.

The author:

Jack Mullen Editor of Farm Safely
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