Batt Sheehan and his wife, Ger, run a dairy farm in the Bride valley in Co Cork.
Since he took over the family farm in the 1990s, he has worked hard to create a farm that is economically viable, while simultaneously protecting biodiversity on the land.
The farm has been organic since 2005 and Batt milks approximately 55 cows.
The grassland includes nitrogen-fixing clover swards as well as herbal leys, creating a diverse pasture for his animals to graze and for silage production.
There are pockets of mature woodland around the farm and Batt and Ger have continuously planted trees on the land over the years.
Fergal Anderson and Emanuela Russo run a market garden in Loughrea, Co Galway. The farm comprises 30ac in total, 25 of which are mixed forestry. The remaining five acres are used to produce a vast range of agro-ecologically produced vegetables and fruits, including, but not limited to, beets, chard, kale, radish, blackcurrants, gooseberries, loganberries, apples, plums, pears and a range of medicinal herbs.
They sell their produce direct to customers and supply restaurants in Galway.
Dan O’Donoghue is a suckler farmer from Co Kerry. The farm has been in the family for generations and Dan is passionate about maintaining older, more traditional methods and practices on the low-input farm.
The farm is made up of wet grassland, species-rich grassland, improved grassland and blanket bog.
Part of the farm is in the Mullaghareirk Mountain Hen Harrier Special Protected Area and Dan joined the Hen Harrier Programme in 2017. “Since my involvement in the hen harrier project, I’m making much better use of the mountain land for grazing the cattle. It’s been a win-win for both myself and the hen harrier,” he said.
Thomas Stack is a dairy farmer from Co Limerick. Having taken over the family farm in 2012 and farming conventionally for a few years, he decided something had to change.
He embarked on an ambitious journey to transform his farm into a system that is resilient to environmental and financial shocks.
Thomas transitioned to organic farming in 2018 and, since then, he has adopted the Korean Natural Farming method.
Thomas milks 60 dairy cows on virtually no external inputs. His cows are entirely grass-fed and he produces high-quality organic milk.
Eva and Stephen Hegarty farm 30ac in the Burren lowlands. They breed free-range, pasture-fed saddleback pigs. Their pork produce is marketed as Burren Free Range Pork and is sold locally and direct to consumers. They keep a small suckler herd and the cattle are outwintered.
Eva and Stephen are passionate about sustainable living – they have a geothermal heating system for the house, as well as a purpose-built reed-system to treat wastewater from the house. They built a pond on the farm to create a water habitat and this has attracted high numbers of frogs. They have bat boxes and bird boxes around the farm and have noticed a significant increase in bat numbers as well.
Paul Moore runs a tillage and beef farm near Midleton, Co Cork.
The mixed 140ac farm comprises 95ac of tillage, producing malting barley, spring beans, winter barley and oilseed rape.
Paul has recently started incorporating regenerative practices on the farm such as the use of multispecies cover crops, longer crop rotations and strip-tilling the spring beans.
While he is in the early stages of experimenting with such practices, he has noticed an increase in earthworms in the soil on parts of the land.
A wildlife and bird enthusiast all his life, Paul is passionate about nature conservation and managing habitats on his farm.
Michael Kelly hails from Co Westmeath where he operates a store-to-beef system of 180 to 200 cattle, across two areas of farmland. The fertile land yields high-quality grass for grazing and silage production. He is interested in learning from past generations of farmers and reintroducing old farming traditions and systems.
Passionate about nature and how it can help our own physical and mental wellbeing, Michael is striving to farm in a low-intensity manner and gradually reduce external inputs on the farm.
He believes that farming should offer a healthy and balanced way of living and provide both environmental and economic returns.
Louis McAuley and his family manage a 1,700ac farm in Co Meath. Approximately 1,400ac of the land is used for cereal production.
In 2015, a low-disturbance direct-drilling system was implemented on the farm, meaning the seeds are sown direct into mulch/stubble and there is no ploughing or major soil disturbance, which protects the soil biology and structure.
They have also included a six- or seven-year crop rotation system, as well as utilising multispecies cover crops on the land to further regenerate the soil.
The cover crops that are in the ground during the summer months produce a variety of flowers which attract insects to the land.
Nicholas Redmond is a mixed-stock organic farmer from north Wexford. He farms sheep and Dexter cattle. There are also chickens, donkeys and alpacas on the farm. Approximately 18ac of the land is under forestry – some an old-growth oak forest and the rest a mixed broadleaf forest.
Nicholas operates a low-impact, high nature value farming system. The animals are part of a mixed rotational grazing system, where they play an important role in regenerating the soil biology.
Very few external inputs are used on the farm – there is no chemical fertiliser, no concentrates and minimal machinery. The pasture on the farm is species-rich grassland.
Marc Sagarzazu and Bríd Óg Norrby farm 35ac in north Co Kildare. They farm 135 breeding ewes, producing spring lambs that graze the low-input permanent pasture. External inputs on the farm are kept to a minimum.
The land has been in Bríd’s family for three generations and there are numerous pockets around the farm with mature native woodland. The pair have always farmed with nature and biodiversity in their minds. They recently planted 250 native trees on the land.
Hedgerows on the farm are not cut unless absolutely necessary, and they have incorporated additional native hedgerows around the land. Marc made bird, bat and bee boxes and put them up around the farm. farmingfornature.ie