Farmers working the soil with a 400 acre Farming for Nature Award shovel

The father and son team, Norman and Michael Dunne, soil cultivators, are the winners of this year’s Farming for Nature award.

They operate their 400-acre tillage farm in Maynooth, County Kildare, using the principles of conservation agriculture.

They went from a conventional intensive tillage business to a regenerative farming system.

Plowing farmers

The Dunnes began to transition on a gradual basis five years ago. They grow beans, oats, barley and wheat for the animal feed market, and Norman also produces hay for the horse market.

The family raises a small number of pigs and sheep to graze cover crops and pastures.

They focused on regenerating soil biology and reducing external inputs where possible on the farm.

They grow cereals on land using minimal disturbance methods such as no-till and min-till. Crop rotations and permanent organic soil cover systems are in place.

Additionally, they use multi-species cover crops to enhance soil fertility and improve soil structure, while providing a food source for pollinating insects.

Farmers are experimenting with biodynamic preparations and Korean natural farming methods to improve soil biology and sow seeds before sowing.

“For three years, we have not used any insecticides. Lately we have turned to seed inoculation, saving our own seeds, inoculating them with organic seeds and natural root enhancing products.

Since the reintroduction of regenerative farming methods on the land, there has been a significant increase in biodiversity and a return of many bird species to the farm.

Price 2021

The 2021 National Agriculture Ambassador for Nature Awards took place on Saturday evening (23 Octoberrd) as part of the annual Burren Winterage weekend.

Now in its 4th year, the annual awards have welcomed 23 new Ambassadors to its network.

Ambassadors operate beef, poultry, forestry and tillage systems and work with a range of valuable habitats including species rich grasslands and heathlands, wetlands, forests and hedges.

Farming For Nature coordinator Brigid Barry said:

“This year’s Audience Award recipient is Michael and Norman Dunne of Owenstown, County Kildare.

“This father-son duo are wonderful examples of farmers who, in recent years, have gradually moved from intensive tillage to a system of regenerative agriculture operating on the principles of conservation agriculture. “

“I think every farmer in Ireland will be able to relate to at least one of these farmers and admire what he has managed to achieve on his farms.”

“We commissioned a short film on each of these farms so that the public could learn more about farming for nature and also choose their favorite story.

“We have had an outstanding response with thousands of video views and thousands of votes cast over the past few weeks. “

Engaging and inspiring

Dr Brendan Dunford of the Burren Program, founder and committed volunteer of Farming for Nature, added:

“This year’s Agriculture for Nature Ambassadors are, like their predecessors, so engaging and inspiring. “

“They provide a powerful and timely testimony to how agriculture and nature can and should work in harmony and that simple actions can make a big difference. “

“These farmers deserve our respect, gratitude and support. They are all that is good about rural Ireland. In addition, they offer great hope at a time of climate crises and biodiversity. “

Bord Bia sponsors the awards, which stakeholders, including DAFM, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and National Rural Network, support.

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